Kennebunkport voters will act on amendments to the animal control ordinance regarding dogs on the town’s beaches in June. The changes are designed to protect endangered birds and simplify the existing ordinance. Tammy Wells Photo

KENNEBUNKPORT – The Goose Rocks Beach Advisory Committee is proposing changes to when dogs are allowed on beaches and their leash status.

The mission is to make the current ordinance simpler, and protect piping plovers and least terns.

The proposed ordinance changes in Kennebunkport are designed to protect endangered birds and simplify the existing rules. Dan King photo

The terns and piping plovers are both listed as endangered by the state of Maine. Piping plovers are listed as threatened by the federal government; least terns have been listed as a Species of Management Concern on the East Coast by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and were listed as Maine’s first endangered species in 1982.

The portion of the animal control ordinance that would be amended includes provisions for dogs on Goose Rocks Beach, Colony Beach and Cleaves Cove.

The proposal, which selectmen agreed to forward to the town meeting warrant for a town-wide vote in June, would amend the animal control ordinance in a couple of ways.

From April 1 to Sept. 15, dogs would be required to be on a leash when on the beach, and comply with other provisions of the ordinance. From June 15 to Labor Day, dogs would be prohibited from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

From Sept. 16 through March 31, if under voice and sight control, dogs would be allowed to be off-leash except for noon to 6 p.m., when they must be leashed.

“The goal was to keep it simple,” said Goose Rocks Beach Advisory Committee member Kate Bauer Burke.

She noted that most committee members are dog owners, and all love the beach.

“We want dogs to be part of the beach,” she said. But she pointed out the existing ordinance is complicated.

Burke and committee member Richard Driver pointed out that the piping plovers are nesting “all over” the beaches these days.

Driver said 2.5 miles, “river to river” is designated as essential habitat for piping plovers and least terns. Driver said the consequences of harm coming to the birds can be substantial for the individuals involved and for communities.

Burke agreed, noting potential liability for the town if an endangered bird is hurt or killed and regulatory agencies believed restrictions in place weren’t sufficient.

The leash requirement from April 1 to Sept. 15 covers the nesting season for piping plovers and least terns and additional time for migratory birds, she pointed out.

Kennebunkport Police Chief Craig Sanford said most violations are because owners don’t have their dogs leashed at times spelled out in the current ordinance.

“We’d better do this,” said Selectman Ed Hutchins, who moved in favor. The three selectmen present, Hutchins, Patrick Briggs and Michael Weston, voted in favor.

Town Manager Laurie Smith said the proposal will be reviewed by the town’s legal counsel, and continued discussion by the selectmen’s board over the coming months.

Comments are not available on this story.