SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council will vote next week on whether to increase restrictions and impose strict fines on dog owners who allow their pets to run off-leash on Willard Beach.
The council will take an initial vote on the proposal Wednesday night, Jan. 21, since Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Dogs are now allowed to run off-leash at Willard Beach all day from October through April. Dogs are allowed to be on the beach from May through September from 6 to 9 a.m.
The council will vote on a proposal to change summer restrictions to allow dogs on the beach from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., and extend those restrictions into April.
The proposal would also strengthen the definition of voice control, which an owner would have to demonstrate at the request of the animal control officer. Dog owners would also have to carry a leash with them at all times.
Dog owners found who violate the ordinance would be issued summonses by the animal control officer, who would be stationed at the beach during dog hours. If convicted, the owners would be fined $100 for a first offense, $250 for a second offense and $500 for a third.
Dog owners convicted of two offenses within a six-month period would have to leash their dogs at Willard Beach at all times. A third offense would prohibit that dog from the beach.
The proposal would also prohibit dogs from coming within 10 feet of anyone who does not explicitly indicate approval to the dog owner. In the case of children 12 or younger, that permission would have to come from a parent or legal guardian.
The potential council action is not the only initiative being pursued to further restrict dogs on the beach. Several residents are collecting signatures for a citywide referendum that would ban dogs between April 15 and Oct. 15. It would also require that dogs be leashed during the winter months.
The council had considered creating an ongoing, oversight committee to oversee conflicts between dog owners and those who do not want dogs on the beach. That idea was dropped for the time being to allow the proposed regulations to work and see whether voters will, in fact, get to decide the issue.