Let’s be best dog citizens we can be

To the editor,

The South Portland City Council is rushing through a new ordinance that would restrict year-round off-leash privileges at Willard Beach, Hinckley Park and other city parks and trails, to dogs with a tag indicating that they are owned by South Portland residents. All other dogs would be required to be leashed.

Even if you are a South Portland resident, this change should concern you because it is a reaction to an active and vocal minority of citizens who oppose off-leash privileges for dogs in our beach, parks and open spaces.

This is a good time to remind dog owners that along with the great joy of loving a dog comes great responsibility. SoPoDog asks dog owners to respect these guidelines for good dog citizenship:

● Voice control. Does your dog hear you and come to you immediately when called? Or does it need more training to respond to your voice command? If the answer is yes, you as a responsible citizen and dog owner must get training for your pet or keep it leashed.
● Sight control. Is your dog under your visual surveillance at all times? This means that you are not talking with others and taking your eyes off your dog. You are not reading emails or texting on your phone. You are always, constantly attentive to what your pup is up to and physically close enough to make corrections.
● Dog Behavioral Issues. People who are against dogs being off-leash consistently point to behavioral issues as the issue. Keep in mind that behavioral issues go beyond whether your dog can be aggressive or snippy; overly friendly or playful dogs frighten some people, too. Some dogs
just don’t belong in an environment that requires a well-socialized animal. Others need more training, or need to spend most if not all of their time leashed in exciting places like beaches and parks. Are you being realistic about your own dog?
● Human Behavior. Do you pick up after your dog every time? Do you respond politely to others pointing out behavior issues with your dog, like romping through protected dunes, running up to people, or jumping?
● Licensing. Your dog must be licensed in South Portland and your license tag should be on the dog’s collar. You can obtain a license at the city clerk’s window at city hall, or online.

See something, say something! When you see inappropriate dog behavior, don’t be afraid to speak up calmly and politely. Remember, many dog owners are first-time dog people, or new puppy owners, who are still learning about their dogs and dog citizenship. Share your experience and let people know that a few badly behaved dogs can jeopardize this privilege for all of us.

Let’s be the best dog citizens we can be.

South Portland Dog Owners Group

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