SOUTH PORTLAND — The City Council on Monday reviewed a proposal to create a citywide Animal Committee to wrestle with dog control at Willard Beach and advise councilors on other animal issues.
Over the last two years, the council has passed rules governing bee keeping, backyard chickens and beach dogs. Proponents say each of the issues could have been vetted by the committee, before reaching the council.
“I see this as a proactive committee,” said Mayor Tom Blake, noting the city has a history of problems with deer, moose, bear, crows, foxes and domestic reptiles. “With climate change, we are going to have animal problems we don’t even know exist.”
Blake also said the city would likely have to deal with fish issues stemming to its efforts to clean up the Long Creek watershed and other urban impaired waters.
An Animal Committee would likely have seven council-appointed members, who would work with the animal control officer to advise the council. The committee is not likely mitigate disputes or make quasi-judicial decisions, a la the Zoning Board of Appeals.
Besides dealing with issues relating to dogs on Willard Beach, the committee would likely tackle the ducks in Mill Creek, which have been identified as the most pressing issue that needs to be addressed at Mill Creek Park. Duck feces has polluted the pond and the ducks themselves are becoming a hazard on surrounding roadways.
Councilor Linda Boudreau relayed a personal experience where she nearly got into an accident when she was forced to swerve to avoid hitting a duck that was crossing Cottage Road.
“He was in the crosswalk, but it still startled us,” said Boudreau, who also indicated her cat was killed last spring by raccoons and a hawk has taken up residence in her neighborhood.
While acknowledging the benefits of having an Animal Committee, Boudreau and Councilor Maxine Beecher were adamantly opposed to the group taking up any issues related to dogs on Willard Beach, saying it would trivialize the council’s work to resolve those problems.
Beecher said she is concerned the committee would have too much bite when dealing with the Willard Beach dogs. “This shouldn’t become a vigilante group,” she said.
Councilor Tom Coward said the committee would help the council decipher facts from fiction in the ongoing dispute. He said there are two disparate versions of life with dogs on the beach: one of roving packs of wild dogs attacking children and the other of peace, light and bliss.
“Not everybody is being entirely frank about what’s going on down there,” Coward said.