A committee of Scarborough residents has a month to come up with a recommendation for regulating dogs on town property and protecting piping plovers.

The Scarborough Town Council on Wednesday voted 5-1 to establish the committee and appoint its seven members, who have until Jan. 21 to report back to the council. Katherine St. Clair was the only councilor opposed.

The committee was formed in response to the results of a Dec. 3 referendum, in which residents voted to overturn a ban on unleashed dogs on town property.

The council enacted the ban in October after the town was cited by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for not implementing leash rules that might have prevented an unleashed dog from killing a piping plover chick on Pine Point Beach in July. The federal agency had warned the town several times that its regulations for dogs on beaches were insufficient for protecting piping plovers, a threatened species of shorebird.

Dogs are allowed off leash on Scarborough beaches in the morning during the summer and at all times during the rest of the year.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to reduce its fine from $12,000 to $500 if the town enacted a ban on unleashed dogs in the spring and summer, during the piping plover nesting season.

The council went far beyond that and enacted a ban on unleashed dogs on all town property, all year long. The council chairman has said the intention was to go back and designate certain areas for unleashed dogs.

A group of dog owners successfully petitioned to take the issue to a townwide vote, and the ban was overturned, 2,880-1,059.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has said it may impose the full $12,000 fine if the town doesn’t tighten its regulations by the start of the nesting season in April.

At a workshop this month, councilors agreed to form a committee to balance the interests of dog owners with the request of the federal agency.

The committee members include dog owners, a town councilor and a wildlife biologist. They are Katy Foley, Noah Perlut, Glennis Chabot, Margot Hodgkins, Lucy Lacasee, Daniel Ravin and Bill Donovan.

Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: [email protected] @lesliebridgers——————————————————————This story was updated at 12:09 p.m. on Dec. 20 to correct the council vote.

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