Dogs may enjoy Kennebunk’s beaches unleashed daily until 9 a.m. June 15 through Labor Day, but will have to be leashed after 5 p.m., the Select Board recently decided. No dogs are allowed on the beaches from 9 a.m to 5 p.m. Jill Brady file photo/Press Herald

KENNEBUNK — The Select Board chewed over a couple of options, and ultimately threw dog owners a bone.

As of June 15, and lasting through Labor Day, dogs are allowed leash-free, and under voice control, on Kennebunk’s three beaches — Gooch’s, Middle and Mother’s — before 9 a.m. daily.

Pooches will be allowed on the beach in the evening, after 5 p.m. — as long as they’re on a maximum six-foot leash that isn’t the retractable variety.

Dogs are prohibited from being on the beach from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

That is a change from the rules instituted earlier this year due to coronavirus, that had banned dogs from being on the beach leash-free. Select Board members had reasoned that unleashed dogs created challenges to physical distancing.

In past years, dogs have been allowed on the beach leash-free, under voice control, both in the mornings before 9 a.m. and in the evenings, after 5 p.m.

At first, the Select Board talked about off-leash times in both the morning and in the evening — and at one point briefly discussed moving the evening no-leash provision to 6 p.m. from 5 p.m., but that didn’t happen.

Select Board member Shiloh Schulte said it was apparent to him that dogs running loose create proximity challenges, and said he’s seen it when he’s taken his children to the beach in the evenings.

“If I were king of the world, I’d require dogs to be leashed all the time,” said Select Board member Frank Paul. He said he went to the beach at one point when unleashed canines were allowed, and there was “a tsunami of dogs” there.

“We should not give the dogs better rights to enjoy the beach than the townspeople; voice command is a fallacy,” he said.

“Think about why we voted to keep dogs on a leash to begin with because of COVID-19,” said Select Board member Ed Karytko. “Social distancing would be a problem if a dog got carried away. Unless that’s changed, I am not sure why we’d want to change our policy.”

Select Board member Wayne Berry said he’d gotten a lot of email on the matter, and suggested early morning might be the right time.

Four members of the public spoke in the online meeting, each in favor of leash-free time for their canines.

One speaker, introduced only as Penny, said she’d been walking her dog off leash on the beach for a decade, and said Kennebunk ought to be more concerned about teen behavior at the beach.

Another speaker, introduced as Theresa, said she likes to run the beach with her dog, which is under voice control, at night. She said she has undertaken training on how to voice control her canine.

“I can’t run the beach with my dog on a six-foot leash,” she said.

A speaker named Nancy, who has been a beach dog monitor in the past and volunteered to be one again, said she moved to Kennebunk five years ago because it was a dog-loving community. She said she hasn’t been able to go to the beach because of the leash requirement that her dogs can’t understand. “Throw us a bone,” she asked Select Board members.

Another speaker asked that the board relax the rules and allow unleashed dogs, “if not in the evening, at least in the morning.”

Ultimately, that is exactly what the Select Board did, in a 6-1 vote, with William Ward dissenting.

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