SCARBOROUGH — In the wake of new leash laws for dogs on beaches, five residents recently appointed to the new Canine Education and Enforcement Ad-Hoc Committee will soon hold their first meeting.
The committee, formed by the Town Council in their meeting April 2, is charged with continuing the work of a previous committee that earlier this year drafted changes to the town’s animal control ordinances.
Among other tasks, the new canine committee will develop educational materials for the ordinance changes, improve signs on beaches, provide information for community services and implement a beach monitoring program with the new piping plover coordinator.
First name on the canine committee is Katy Foley, a member of the former committee. Foley was also the unofficial leader of Dog Owners of Greater Scarborough, the local political action committee that opposed the Town Council’s limitations to on-leash time for dogs on town beaches.
Joining her are residents Cheryl Larou, Catherine Rogers, Liam Somers and Pammela Rovner, all also members of DOGS.
The canine committee’s work stems from an incident last summer, when an off-leash dog killed an endangered piping plover and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service served the town with a suggested $12,000 fine.
In reaction, the Town Council implemented a town-wide ban of off-leash dogs, which was later shot down in a referendum by a three-to-one margin. Assisted by the ad-hoc committee, the council amended the restrictions for dogs on beaches last month.
Bill Reichl, town recreation manager, will serve the committee as a representative from community services. The town piping plover coordinator, Ryan Wynne, will also join the group.
The group is also charged with developing a tag program to register and monitor dogs off-leash, modeled after a program in Boulder, Colorado.
Foley said in an interview Monday that she sees the new committee as a potential part of the healing process, after the dog debate divided residents for months.
“I really believe we need to work together to reunite the community and create some harmony,” she said. “I feel there’s a lot of tension and people working against each other; if we do that, the plovers are going to lose and the dogs are going to lose.”
Although she is glad the town has begun enforcing the new laws, Foley was concerned by town officials’ reactions to a recent incident on Higgins Beach, where a Yarmouth woman was fined after her off-leash dog chased a plover.
“Having it posted on the (police department) Facebook page within an hour, doing a press release, it’s like, really?” she said. “Public humiliation is not the way to build compliance, it’s the way to build animosity.”
She hopes the committee can help visitors like the Yarmouth woman stay more informed about the new changes.
As the group is an ad-hoc committee, they technically have until Sept. 1 to complete their work.
Town Manager Tom Hall said the group would set a list of meeting dates at their first meeting. He also said the Town Council will likely grant them an extension from Sept. 1 to Nov. 1 to meet their goals.