SCARBOROUGH – Arguing that a new “divide the beach” concept in Scarborough is too complex and restrictive, members of the town’s Dog Owners of Greater Scarborough advocacy group protested outside last week’s Town Council meeting.

A public hearing on the proposed new rules, which are designed to protect the town from having to pay the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service a $12,000 fine for the killing of a piping plover chick by a dog last July, is scheduled for 7 p.m. on April 16.

Katy Foley, a member of the dog owners group and also a member of the town’s ad hoc Animal Control Advisory Committee, said this week that her group intends to continue what she described as an “awareness campaign,” which includes making phone calls and buying advertising in local newspapers.

Foley said this week that most people in town felt the issue of allowing dogs on the town’s three public beaches had been decided in a referendum in December, when residents overturned an ordinance restricting dog access and put back the existing rules.

Those rules allow off-leash time during the winter and in the summer months, when dogs are allowed off leash for three hours each morning.

While Foley said her group is “willing to compromise” and “mitigate further,” she also said the ideal would be to keep the town’s current beach access rules for dogs, which she described as “fair and reasonable.”

Like others who don’t like the divide-the-beach concept, where dogs would continue to have off-leash time but only on certain areas of each beach, Foley said the town is “being bullied” by the wildlife service.

In addition, she called the rules now under consideration by the council, which would create protected areas of each beach and allow a beach closure if a piping plover chick should wander out of the protected area, “very confusing” and said it would make “enforcement an almost impossible task.”

Foley said her group does not want to force another special election on the town, but said she also feels as if the council is not taking into consideration what the voters wanted.

“Our goal is to maintain off-leash time,” she said. “No one wants any harm to come to a plover chick, but accidents happen. People and dogs are not the problem,” she argued and added there has only been one incident in the past 33 years.

In all, Foley said the dog owners group “just wants to make sure people weigh in and get their voices heard.”

Town Manager Tom Hall said that’s what next week’s public hearing is all about. That will be the time for the council to listen to residents and hear their thoughts and concerns about the proposed new ordinance amendments.

The plan is for a final vote on the new rules to be held on May 7. Hall said that would be the time when councilors may make suggestions for changes based on what they’ve heard from the public.

In addition to holding a first reading on the new dog beach access rules last week, the Town Council also approved the creation of a new Canine Education and Enforcement Ad-Hoc Committee.

That committee, which would consist of five members, is designed to work with Community Services to develop educational programs and materials for dog owners, provide support to the town’s plover coordinator in the development and implementation of beach monitoring programs and develop an off-leash tag program, among other duties.

A CLOSER LOOK

A public hearing on proposed changes to the animal control ordinance in Scarborough will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 16, at Town Hall.


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