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Scarborough animal control panel gets 3 extra weeks to work

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Scarborough animal control panel gets 3 extra weeks to work

SCARBOROUGH — The ad-hoc committee considering animal control measures received an extension to Feb. 12 from town councilors Wednesday, two days after composing a framework of possible recommendations to protect wildlife and allow access for dogs on town beaches.

The committee of Town Councilor Bill Donovan, Glennis Chabot, Margot Hodgkins, Noah Perlut, Daniel Ravin, Lucy LaCasse and Katy Foley will next meet Jan. 22, at 6:30 p.m., to continue discussions about limiting access for dogs on beaches beginning April 1, but restoring access for unleashed dogs once it is evident there is no piping plover activity on beaches after the birds' nesting and hatching periods.

"If we can continue this level of conversation, respect and compromise, I think we can make some progress," Ravin said.

The committee met for a total of 4 1/2 hours on Jan. 9 and Monday, and faced an original deadline of Tuesday, Jan. 21, to complete its work.

Foley, who organized Dog Owners of Greater Scarborough to repeal a town-wide leash law enacted by the council Oct. 2, remained wary of labeling dogs a primary threat to piping plovers, which are considered threatened or endangered by state and federal standards.

But she agreed more regulation is needed in the spring, when plovers arrive on town beaches, but dogs are still allowed to be off leash throughout the day.

The current ordinance restricts dogs on beaches from June 15 through Sept. 15, banning them completely from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and requiring leashes after 5 p.m. From sunrise to 9 a.m., dogs are allowed off leash if under "voice control."

The committee facilitator, Town Manager Tom Hall, cautioned the panel about creating too many sets of rules for different beaches in town.

“Should there be time allowed for dogs off leash during nesting season?" he asked Monday. "If this committee can work through that fundamental question, the other pieces will fall in place.”

As it stands now, committee members agreed more vigilance in the form of coordinators and volunteers will be needed, and they may suggest an animal control committee be formed to monitor beaches and educate the public.

But data provided by Maine Audubon may also be the basis for ordinance amendments that will not conform with those suggested by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service after the July 15, 2013, death of a piping plover fledgling on Pine Point Beach.

The agency had proposed a $12,000 fine against the town because its lack of oversight contributed to the death of the bird. The fine was reduced to $500 in a consent agreement negotiated by Hall, and the agency suggested dogs be kept on leashes from April 1 through Aug. 31.

Because plovers have been noted on the beach only three times in the last 10 years, Ravin was among the committee members who objected to an encompassing ordinance that would restrict dogs when plovers are not present.

The committee may also recommend extending the daytime ban on dogs on the beach to April 1, though not for the eight hours they are prohibited during the summer.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.