Dogs and their owners take to Willard Beach in South Portland shortly after 3 p.m. when dogs don’t need to be leashed.. Drew Johnson / The Forecaster

SOUTH PORTLAND — The South Portland Town Council met on May 17 for the final vote on the debate between beachgoers and dog owners.  

Councilors voted to amend Willard Beach summer on-leash hours from 7 to 9 a.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Ordinance 20-21 and 22 will return to council for a second reading on June 7.  

On May 3 councilors gave preliminary approval and voted 5-0 on the many amendments to the city’s dog rules. The amendments place several restrictions on dogs and their owners in city public spaces. The amendments include prohibiting dogs from athletic fields, fenced-in playgrounds, and schoolyards, and requiring dog owners to pick up and properly dispose of their pet’s waste.  

“We all want to make everyone happy; I don’t think that’s going to happen here,” said councilor Misha Pride in an earlier statement.  

The dog-leash policy has been an issue off and on for many months. Dog overcrowding at Willard Beach is a problem committee members agreed on, but they could not agree on how to resolve the issue. If the on-leash and off-leash policy is approved, dogs will need to be leashed at Willard Beach from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Oct. 1 through April 30. Dogs will be prohibited from being on the beach from May 1 to Sept. 30 except from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. Other items in the ordinance require all dogs to be on a leash at Hinckley Park from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. year-round, prohibit dogs and owners from crossing city sand dunes, and require that a dog that acts aggressively toward people or other dogs and does not consistently come when commanded must be leashed when not on private premises.  

According to an earlier statement made by councilor Linda Cohen, this issue was easy to fix and should have been fixed years ago.  


“Is this going to need to be tweaked again in the future? No doubt, just like any other ordinance that we have,” said councilor Linda Cohen.  

The committee considered several measures like restricting off-leash dogs to a particular section of the beach, requiring parking stickers, and making it compulsory for dog owners to obtain a beach pass. The leash time for Willard Beach was the only item that the council could not agree on by the citizen-driven Dogs and Sharing Public Spaces Advisory Committee.  

On March 22, the city council agreed that the dog leash rules will remain in effect for the near future at Willard Beach and Hinckley Pond. The councilors collectively agreed to vote on the recommendations from the Dogs and Sharing Public Spaces Advisory Committee at a future meeting. During the meeting, councilors were supportive of many of the recommendations made by the committee and gave staff guidance to move forward with those items. The council also supplied guidance about dogs on Willard Beach, an area where the committee had been unable to reach an agreement.  

The South Portland City Council and Sharing Public Spaces Advisory Committee will meet again on June 7. 

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