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Scarborough adopts revised rules for dogs on beaches

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Scarborough adopts revised rules for dogs on beaches

SCARBOROUGH — After months of debate, the Town Council finalized animal control ordinance changes Wednesday that will create new restricted beach areas during piping plover nesting season and require dogs to be on leash from 1 p.m.-3 p.m. during the winter. 

The council passed the amended ordinance in a 4-1 vote, with Councilor James Benedict opposed and Councilor Katherine St. Clair absent.

The ordinance included amendments proposed in a prior meeting by Chairman Richard Sullivan to simplify the so-called "protected areas" on public beaches for the endangered plovers during their nesting season, which begins April 1.

Now called "restricted," those areas will not be enlarged if plover chicks wander outside of them. 

As previously proposed, the Higgins Beach restricted area would prohibit dogs on the beach from Champion Street to Spurwink Road. The Pine Point restricted area goes from Hurd Park to the jetty, but allows dogs on leashes. 

New is an extension of the Ferry and Western Beach restricted area to include the majority of Ferry, extending south of the parking lot, where no dogs will be allowed. 

The ordinance also moves forward with new winter restrictions on off-leash time, which councilors said was requested by some elderly residents and residents with small children. An amendment approved Wednesday night mandates that dogs be on-leash from Labor Day to May 14 between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. 

"(The winter changes) have nothing to do with plovers, but we have the animal  control ordinance open, and people came to council meetings and expressed concern," Sullivan said in response to criticism from dog owners. "We’re trying the best we can to meet everyone’s concerns"

The ordinance allows dogs off-leash on beaches from sunrise-9 a.m., and requires them to be leashed from 5 p.m.-dusk, from May 15 through Labor Day.

At all other times and dates, dogs must be under voice and sight control of their owner. 

Revisions to the animal control ordinances began last September, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed fining the town $12,000 for insufficient regulations protecting plovers town beaches after one was allegedly killed by a dog last July.

After a December referendum struck down a town-wide ban on off-leash dogs by a nearly 3-1 margin, an ad-hoc committee began crafting an ordinance to satisfy dog owners and adequately protect the endangered birds.

Fourteen residents and dog owners spoke in opposition to the ordinance Wednesday. But once the new amendments passed, Katy Foley, a resident of Lucky Lane and the unofficial leader of Dog Owners of Greater Scarborough, said the changes are "livable and workable."

"I think we should give this a year and see how it goes," she said. "I’m hopeful for education and enforcement; it’s the best option at this time."

Shelby Carignan can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or scarignan@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @shelbycarignan.