SOUTH PORTLAND — City Manager Scott Morelli announced a new emergency leash law on April 15, to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

The regulation, according to a release, “requires all dogs to be leashed in public places during certain hours” between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Existing city ordinances require leashes “while on any public way, public street, public sidewalk, public parking lots, within Mill Creek Park, or on the Greenbelt Walkway,” but does not cover other public parks, public open spaces, public beaches, or other public spaces.  The regulation also requires people or animals outside of a dog’s household to maintain a 6-foot distance from other dogs being.

“As a dog owner, I understand how important it is to let our pets outside and get their exercise,” Morelli said. “But I also recognize during this national pandemic that certain steps need to be taken to help better ensure public health and safety, even those that we have to grit our teeth when making.”

Morelli noted that pets running off-leash can cause people to break the 6-foot social distancing requirement issued by Gov. Janet Mills’ executive order.

“We’ve received complaints about dogs off-leash resulting in owners and park/beach visitors coming closer than the 6-foot minimum,” Morelli said. “This new regulation will help prevent these incidents from reoccurring.”