Falmouth closer to regulating pets on public lands

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FALMOUTH — Two town committees continue to work on revisions of policies for pets on public lands that will be sent to the Town Council.

Ted Asherman, chairman of the Land Management and Acquisitions Committee, said a subcommittee has been working on drafting recommendations. He declined to provide specifics since the work is still in the early stages.

“(Parks and Community Programs Advisory Committee) is going to look at those same recommendations … in their meeting on March 15,” Asherman said, after which LMAC will act on the recommendations.

Asherman said the overall goal is “to strike a balance” between all town residents, whether they own pets or not.

“And we also recognize that some of the properties in town are natural areas with wildlife that needs to be protected,” Asherman said. “The balance needs to be workable for everyone.”

Lucky D’Ascanio, the director of parks and community programs, said following a March 15 PACPAC meeting that the subcommittee’s recommendations will also be vetted by public safety and Town Manager Nathan Poore. She said both committees want to make sure the review occurs before formulating more definite recommendations to send to the Town Council.

The discussion started in January, when the two committees held a public forum to discuss the possibility of new regulations. The reasoning behind the desire for restrictions was that several nearby towns already have ordinances governing pets on public lands.

“We took into consideration all the information that was garnered from the original public forum, and that drove the basis for the recommendations,” D’Ascanio said.

The Yarmouth Town Council in 2012 banned dogs from Sandy Point Beach during the summer. In 2014, Cumberland approved an ordinance limiting the number of dogs a person could walk at one time, and limits the time and place a dog can be off-leash on public land.

Scarborough placed leash restrictions for dogs on beaches in 2014 after an endangered piping plover was killed by an off-leash dog. Portland has a full-time park ranger to ensure pet owners follow the rules. And Cape Elizabeth is looking into policy changes for dogs on the Greenbelt Trail system.

Falmouth’s ordinance says dogs must be on a leash during public activities and events. Dogs are allowed to be off-leash on trails and other designated areas as long as they are “within voice command.” The ordinance says pets cannot harass or disturb others on the trails or damage trail property. The ordinance also says the pet owner must remove any feces left by the pet.

Asherman said after getting input from the advisory committee, LMAC will meet again in April. Should they have a proposal ready to send to the council at that point, Asherman said they will host a public forum similar to the one held in January.

“I don’t see anything happening in terms of the the final changes or anything that may come forth for at least a couple of months,” Asherman said.

Colin Ellis can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @colinoellis.

Reporter covering the Portland Public School District as well as the town of Falmouth for The Forecaster. Can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or cellis@theforecaster.net.