A sign at the entrance to Hinckley Park in South Portland instructs dog walkers to leash their animals or carry a leash at all times while keeping their dogs under voice control. The City Council is considering changing that rule to force all owners to leash their dogs in the park at all times. Sean Murphy / The Forecaster

After next week, dog owners in Hinckley Park in South Portland may be required to leash their dogs, at least for a while.

The South Portland City Council will hold a public hearing and possibly take a final vote May 25 on a temporary measure to require leashing in the park off Highland Avenue. Right now, a sign at the park says dog owners may have their dogs off-leash at the park provided the owners carry a leash in their hand at all times and the dogs remain under voice control.

The council first considered the change at its May 11 meeting, citing complaints of dogs being out of control. Two unleashed dogs attacked and killed a resident’s cat near the park on April 24. The dogs’ owner was cited for two counts of allowing dogs to be at large, South Portland police said.

If the council approves the change, dogs will be required to be leashed at all times at Hinckley Park until Sept. 30. The council also has planned a workshop for Aug. 3 to discuss this and other dog-related issues, including the potential creation of a dog park in the city.

On Tuesday this week, area residents were walking with their dogs in the park, some leashed, some not, and opinions on the potential leashing requirement were mixed.

Nina Michalski, of Portland, was walking with her 3-year-old shepherd, Scuba, who was not leashed. Michalski, who was carrying a leash, could not say for sure whether she was opposed to the proposed change. On the one hand, she said she didn’t like the idea of having leashing forced on her.

“I don’t like being told what to do,” she said.

Michalski added, however, that she understood why people might be concerned. As Scuba sat panting by her side, Michalski acknowledged that anything can happen.

“He’s a sweet, kind dog, but he’ll defend himself,” she said.

Michalski said she could imagine, say, a parent of young children visiting the park being concerned about the unpredictable nature of unleashed dogs.

“They’re all very complicated, like people,” she said.

Elsewhere in the park, birdwatcher Jill Osgood said she favored a leash law. She said she is a dog owner herself, but worries about what a loose animal might do.

“I can’t bring my dog here because she doesn’t like other dogs,” she said.

Aimee Tarrio, of South Portland, doesn’t want to see mandatory leashing. She said she visits the park regularly, and virtually none of the loose dogs she has encountered have done anything to worry her.

“As long as they’re well-behaved, I don’t mind it,” she said.

The council voted 5-2 at its May 11 meeting to pass first reading on the change. The second and final vote is expected to happen at the council’s meeting on Tuesday, May 25, following a public hearing.

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