HARPSWELL — All dogs in Harpswell must be leashed or wear a shock collar when on town-owned property, including Mitchell Field, Cliff Trail and Devil’s Back Trail.

Harpswell’s Board of Selectmen unanimously approved the new leash law Thursday in response to multiple requests for the regulations from residents.

“Everyone thinks their dog is special, which I understand as a dog owner, but we’ve had numerous reports of residents getting bitten by dogs on trails,” said Kevin Johnson, chairman of the board.

Johnson said he supports the leash law because his son was bitten while trying to break up a fight between his dog and another dog while hiking on Cliff Trail.

“The other dog bit him and the people took off,” said Johnson. “Once he got stitched up he had to get the full round of rabies treatment too because we didn’t know anything about the dog that had bitten him. That reinforced my opinions on leashes.”

Previously, the town allowed dogs to be off leash on town property as long as the dog was under the owner’s voice control, which the Harpswell Animal Control Ordinance defines as “the dog is within 100 yards of its owner or that the owner can demonstrate command of the dog to an enforcement officer if requested.”

Dogs are still permitted to be off leash while swimming at Mitchell Field.

“It’s safer for dogs, but it’s safer for people as well,” said Selectman David Chapman.

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