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Scarborough to vote Dec. 3 on repeal of beach leash law passed after dog killed threatened bird

David Harry | The Forecaster
David Harry | The Forecaster
Marilynn Windust, a visitor from Phoenix, Ariz., plays with her dog, Jack, on Pine Point Beach in Scarborough on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013. By Thursday morning it was illegal to let dogs off leash on any town properties, including beaches.
By David Harry, The Forecaster

SCARBOROUGH, Maine — Scarborough voters will have their say on repealing the townwide leash law Dec. 3 after town councilors set the referendum date at a brief meeting Wednesday.

What voters won’t see on the ballot is a paragraph fully explaining how to vote to keep or repeal changes made Oct. 2 to the animal control ordinance.

That wording — explaining a “no” vote is a vote to repeal the unenforced law that requires all dogs to be on leashes on town properties, except when hunting or in “designated areas” — will, however, be posted at the entrance to the polls at Town Hall and in the town clerk’s office.

Repeal will return the animal control ordinance to its prior form, including allowing dogs to be unleashed on town beaches from Sept. 16 through June 14.

Lucky Lane resident Katy Foley, one of the leaders of Dog Owners of Greater Scarborough, asked councilors to include the statement explaining the vote on the ballot. She offered the only comments during a public hearing on the referendum question.

Foley also clarified the intent of DOGS, the political action group formed to repeal the leash law, saying group members welcome a chance to revise the ordinance in a more balanced manner and recognize there are times and places where dogs should be leashed.

The townwide leash law was enacted as councilors considered ordinance amendments specifically designed to control dogs on town beaches to protect endangered species.

An amendment that would have required leashes for dogs on beaches between sunrise and 9 a.m. April 1-Aug. 31 was debated before a motion to expand the leash law throughout town was approved by a 4-3 council vote.

On Oct. 16, Council Chairman Ron Ahlquist unsuccessfully sought reconsideration of the vote creating the leash law.

Eliminating voice control for dogs on town beaches in the spring and summer is also a way to reduce a proposed $12,000 fine from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to $500 after the July 15 killing of a piping plover by an unleashed dog on Pine Point Beach.

The agency proposed the fine because its investigation found the town failed to protect the piping plovers, which are a threatened and endangered species.

A consent agreement approved by councilors would reduce the fine, but requires the town to eliminate voice control for dogs on beaches during nesting season.

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