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New rules, area approved for unleashed dogs in Fort Williams Park

The Town Council on Jan. 8, 2018 approved changes to the area and to the rules for unleashed dogs in Fort Williams Park, and at the same time, agreed to take a comprehensive look at how leash laws are applied in the rest of the town.

By a 4-1 vote, the council approved a change to the dog ordinance that will prohibit unleashed dogs on the park's multipurpose playing field between April 1 and Nov. 1. The field is located behind the equipment shed near the children's playground, in an area of the park designated for unleashed dogs. To compensate for the seasonal restriction, the change also expands the unleashed dog area to include a portion of the "green" and wooded area around Battery Garesche. [current (2007) map | approved map].

Following a public hearing in December, the council deferred voting on the ordinance until wording could be added to clarify that "unleashed" dogs were the ones not allowed on the playing field. Councilors approved the ordinance Jan. 8, but also agreed to review how leash laws apply to other public areas of town.

The dog ordinance requires dogs to be on leashes on groomed or regularly maintained areas of municipal property, except for the Fort Williams Park unleashed dog area, the Cape Elizabeth Poor Farm, and the portions of Lions Field outside of the Little League Field. When the ordinance was last updated in 1990, other popular places for dog-walking such as the Gull Crest fields and Winnick Woods were not municipally owned and therefore not addressed.

Town Councilor Chris Straw also suggested the ordinance committee look at the conflict the town's practice of providing dog-waste bags at Fort Williams Park has with the park's carry-in, carry-out trash policy.

Town Manager Matthew Sturgis is expected to present the council with suggestions for specific direction for the ordinance committee at the council's next meeting Feb. 12.

Voting against the ordinance approval Jan. 8 was Council Chair Jessica Sullivan, who said she believes no dogs -- leashed or not -- should be allowed on town athletic fields. Councilors Penny Jordan and Caitlin Jordan were absent.