A new proposed rule in South Portland would allow dogs to be off-leash at Willard Beach and Hinckley Park on even-numbered calendar says. File photo

The South Portland City Council has further revised a proposed dog leash ordinance, giving dog owners every other day to let their dogs run freely and establishing a committee to look into more permanent solutions.

Nearing the Oct. 1 expiration of a temporary leash requirement at Hinckley Park, the council Tuesday proposed that dogs at the park and at Willard Beach be on leash on even-numbered calendar days from Oct. 1 through April 30. The council will vote on the system Oct. 12.

“I think we should try it this winter,” Councilor Katherine Lewis said. “I’m sure I will come under fire by some people for having proposed this or agreed with other councilors on this, but so be it.”

Mayor Misha Pride conceded the amendment could be considered one-sided, favoring dog owners. In the summer months, dogs are only permitted at Willard Beach for a total of four hours a day from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. During the winter months there is no time restriction on dogs being allowed in the public spaces.

“On the dog off-leash days, it’s a full day of dogs off leash,” he said.

The council had been scheduled to vote on its original solution to the dog debate that has put members of the community at odds in recent months. That proposal included ending the Hinckley Park leash requirement and requiring dogs to stay on trails or in open fields.


Instead, the council presented its new solution, which includes a Dogs & Sharing Public Spaces Advisory Committee.

“I think this is an incredibly fair amendment,” said Councilor Bruzgo. “I’m sorry to anyone that this might upset but … I think it will benefit a lot of people without dogs and dog owners.”

The advisory committee would include two members of the South Portland Dog Owners Group, which has been vocal at recent public hearings on the dog leash ordinance, saying that the number of incidents of unruly dogs may be overstated and that most dogs are well behaved. Non-dog owners have complained to the city that off-leash dogs have been running rampant, approaching non-consenting residents and even knocking them over in some cases.

Councilors said the committee will help provide them with data on incidents that occur while dogs are off-leash versus incidents when they’re required to be on leash.

Other members of the committee would be two residents who have expressed concerns about dogs in public spaces and the city’s Parks & Rec director, park ranger and animal control officer.

“We’re going to be having a committee working on this,” Pride said. “It’s worth trying this out and seeing how it goes.”

The committee will study and recommend whether the city should pursue creating a dog park, the efficiency of the even-day, on-leash ordinance if passed, existing ordinance changes, and the adequacy of staff to enforce these ordinances. The recommendations will be be made in March to give the council ample time to draft any necessary new ordinances before summer.

Councilor Susan Henderson said “the rights of the minority” must be taken into account. Even if only one or two people complain about dogs in public spaces, they need to be heard, she said, and a compromise needs to be made.

“I think that dogs are really an integral part of our society,” she said. “We need to provide for them, have a safe place in our society that addresses the needs of dogs and their owners and the safety of other people.”

Comments are not available on this story.