Portland will require all dogs to be leashed on public property from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. while its stay-at-home order is in effect.

The Portland City Council voted on that new restriction Tuesday over the objections of some dog owners who live near Baxter Woods, where leash restrictions have been the subject of recent controversy. The current stay-at-home order would expire April 27 if councilors do not extend it, and the leash restrictions would end at that time.

Councilor Kim Cook proposed a blanket leash restriction, and Councilor Pious Ali suggested a compromise by limiting the hours. Cook said she heard from at least three constituents who had close contact with dog owners when they needed to get their unleashed pets under control, and a leash restriction would help people maintain social distancing.

“The owners of those dogs had to come close, maybe not just for a brief second, to get their dog back under control,” Cook said.

The city currently allows dogs to be off leash and under voice control in Baxter Woods, parts of the Eastern Promenade, Capisic Pond Park, dog parks and a handful of other areas.

Public health officials do not have evidence that pets can spread the virus or that they might be a source of infection in the United States. But Cook referenced guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that suggests pet owners should walk their dogs on a leash during this time.


The councilors were divided on the restriction. Five – Cook, Ali, Jill Duson, Belinda Ray and Tae Chong – voted in favor. Four – Nick Mavodones, Justin Costa, Spencer Thibodeau and Mayor Kate Snyder – voted against. They rejected a suggestion to close dogs parks as well.

Councilors who spoke in support said many people are making sacrifices during this time, and the temporary measure would help people avoid close contact with others.

“It’s going to piss a lot of people off, frankly, but during this pandemic, I think it’s essential,” Duson said.

Those who spoke in opposition said they did not feel like the ban was necessary to the city’s pandemic response.

“The question for us is, is this a material component of transmission of the virus that justifies being part of an emergency order?” Costa said. “I just don’t feel that we’ve established that.”

Seven people who commented during the meeting encouraged councilors to reject the amendment. Some said a blanket restriction would force them to travel to get to areas where dogs can be off leash, and others said they would feel more at risk of contracting the virus at an enclosed dog park. Multiple speakers said they take their dogs to Baxter Woods, where leash restrictions have been up for debate.


“Taking away our ability to walk our dogs off leash is taking away our exercise,” resident Lee Edwards said. “It’s taking away our dog’s exercise. And it’s not going to do any good.”

It was not immediately clear how strictly the city would enforce the restriction.

“We do not want to create a set of expectations that we are going to have staff everywhere throughout the city where a dog may or may not be on a leash,” Jennings said.

The City Council postponed votes on two proposals related to short-term rentals.

One would allow the owners of short-term rentals to get a refund on their registration fees if they lease the unit to a tenant for at least one year. Portland has a structured fee system for those short term rentals that starts at $100, but owners with multiple properties could spend thousands of dollars.

The second proposal would also give the owners of short-term rentals an additional $1,000 payment if they sign a lease of at least one year with a tenant who is using General Assistance or a Section 8 housing voucher. That money would come from the city’s Housing Trust Fund.

The full City Council is scheduled for another virtual meeting on April 27.

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