On Tuesday, September 7, 2021, the City Council of South Portland reviewed proposed changes to its animal ordinance, which was amended in late August. At Tuesday’s meeting, the City Council forwarded the proposal—ORDINANCE #3-21/22 – Amending Chapter 3, “Animals and Fowl”, regarding dogs—to an ad hoc committee for the purpose of continued work on the draft. The proposed ordinance is next scheduled to be discussed at a September 21, 2021, Workshop Meeting.
Dog owners who reside or visit South Portland are encouraged to virtually attend and provide input at the September 21, 2021, Workshop Meeting. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:30pm. A link to this remote meeting is on the city calendar webpage. If unable to participate in the virtual meeting, residents can share their comments via email. Residents may identify their city councilor with the information provided here.
The current dog ordinance, referred to as Chapter 309, prohibits dogs off leash and running at large while off the owner’s premises, unless under the control of a person. However, concerns have been raised about irresponsible owners not picking up after their dogs and creating a nuisance for park guests and beachgoers. According to a Forecaster article published September 7, 2021, a public hearing is scheduled for September 16, 2021, on leash restrictions and other rules.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) is concerned that the proposed changes for Part I and Part II include the following:
- Under Article III regarding “Impoundment”, a Police Officer or Animal Control Officer, must make a reasonable effort, if possible, to notify the owner of a dog’s impoundment. After six days, ownership of any unclaimed dog transfers to the shelter. The ordinance should be amended to require officers to inspect for tattoos, ear tags, or other permanent forms of positive identification, including scanning for a microchip upon admission and prior to transferring ownership of an unclaimed or abandoned animal.
- According to Article IV, “Dogs Not to Run At Large”, “It shall be unlawful for any dog, licensed or unlicensed, to run at large, except when used for hunting.” There are legitimate instances when a dog may be appropriately off the owner’s/keeper’s property without a leash, such as field trials or formal obedience, agility, or similar training periods; or the dog is in a specifically designated dog park or dog exercise area; is a service animal whose handler, because of a disability, is unable to use a harness, leash, or other tether; is performing search and rescue and similar public service training or is a working farm dog that is either guarding or herding farm animals.
- The proposed restriction in Article IV. B “Animal Noise” does not contemplate neighborly disputes that can result in complaints made in bad faith. Upon receipt of a noise complaint, it would be important for an officer to investigate and, if satisfied with the truth of the complaint, issue a warning, in writing, to the owner or keeper of the dog that nuisance violations result in the imposition of a civil penalty.
Those impacted by the Yarmouth, Maine, proposed changes are encouraged to provide input during the September 16 public hearing, which is scheduled to begin at 7PM at the American Legion Log Cabin. Town Council meetings are held in accordance with the most current recommendations from the Maine CDC. Masks are required at all in-person meetings. A link to the agenda and how to access the meeting remotely can be viewed here. If you are unable to attend but wish to submit comment, you may email the full town council by clicking the “Group email” link found here.
AKC Government Relations (AKC GR) continues to track and address dog-related government activities and will provide additional information as developments warrant. For more information, contact AKC GR at firstname.lastname@example.org.