The South Portland dog issue boils down to a dispute about territory. A small group of Willard Beach residents, bought or in one case built, their homes adjacent to a public park, Willard Beach. They feel that gives them, instead of the city, first rights to make the rules for the park. Now all they have to do is con the voters into doing their dirty work for them.
The centerpiece of their campaign is the “health” issue. That dog won’t hunt. After a year of detailed study, the city task force found “no significant health risk,” even to children. Any campaign that uses “do it for the children” should raise a red flag. They also exclaim adverse dog/human interactions, the old “the dog ate my sandwich” defense. That puppy isn’t going anywhere either. Incidents are rare and inconsequential. If bumped by a dog, the aggrieved party seems not to call 911, but write a letter to a newspaper.
The dog walkers enjoy the beach year round, under heavy restrictions, brief summer hours and heavy fines. They respond to this privilege by cleaning up after their dogs and the beach-goers as well and once a month organize a beach and park clean-up.
South Portland is a welcoming and inclusive community, not an exclusionary one that seeks to make some residents second-class citizens. Please vote against the ordinance that would ban dog walkers from the beach.
Peter F. Erlin