Searching for a fair and equitable solution

To the editor,

The South Portland Dog Owners Group would like to respond to Andrea Thompson McCall’s recent letter to the editor about comments made on the Friends of Willard Beach Facebook page concerning dogs on Willard Beach.

The first point to be made is that if Thompson McCall wants to reference the Facebook site that is most concerned with dogs off-leash and on, Friends of Willard Beach is not it; rather, there is a separate Facebook page called the South Portland Dog Owners Group, which is engaged directly with dogs and people and open spaces — at Willard Beach and elsewhere. This group has advocated for off-leash areas for dogs and their owners since 2009.

Of course, Facebook is akin to a public sidewalk, as the singer Rickie Lee Jones once said about jazz. Anyone is free to say anything they want within reason (as determined by site administrators). However, the South Portland Dog Owners Group leadership has been clear all along that it urges full compliance with the ordinances most recently passed by the South Portland City Council, whether individuals like them or not. Indeed, this group urged the city to put up the bright yellow sandwich boards now at entrances to the beach so that no one could be mistaken about the existing rules.

Moreover, the group has two representatives on the Dogs and Public Spaces Advisory Committee that is presently deliberating over the future of the rules for both Willard and Hinckley, and as such it has urged its membership of some 1,000 to be patient and allow that process to take its course in generating what we hope will be solutions that are satisfactory to all sides.

Finally, the South Portland Dog Owners Group is planning events for the city’s Winterfest celebration in January that will be geared toward educating dog owners about responsible dog ownership. Free training sessions are part of these plans. We are also forming a voluntary citizen ambassadors program in which dog owners will help each other follow the rules.

Andrea Thompson McCall writes, “I don’t love dogs.” Fair enough; but very many South Portlanders do, and we are doing our best to share Willard Beach equitably to give our companions the exercise they need and deserve.

The South Portland Dog Owners Group

filed under: