What are your thoughts on the current animal control ordinance? Did you vote in the special election held on December 4th, 2013 and if so, how did you vote and why did you vote that way? Should you be elected, are you open to a review of the ordinance to see how it is working? How do you feel about the role the USFW played in this issue in our town?
(Note: By clicking on a candidate's name, you can read more in depth the candidate's responses to other questions. We have not yet received Jim Benedict's response but will post when it becomes available.)
For the most part I think the Animal control ordinance is adequate; however I do think that section 10 Restricted Areas is too rigid. If I understand correctly, the Plover nesting locations can change from year to year. If that is in fact the case then it might make more sense to review these locations on a regular interval to ensure a) the proper protection is being granted to the plovers which are a protected species and b) that not too much of the beach is restricted unnecessarily. Perhaps retaining the simple statement of restricted access “to roped off areas” would be sufficient. In terms of section 604-10 Public Beaches and Shores I don’t believe dogs are the problem but I do believe that irresponsible owners are. As such banning a leashed, controlled animal is not the solution in my mind. I would prefer to remove the outright ban but increase and strongly enforce the leash restrictions during the posted dates and times. I would also support increased enforcement and fines for those owners that choose not to comply with the rules. In terms of allowing animals to run free on voice or sight command, I have found that the level in which a pet is under command can be subjective based on the owners bias. Due to the sensitivity of the other animals and people on the beach, I feel that voice command is not a sufficient means of control on the beach. I believe that other recreational open spaces of the town, such as Memorial Park or other town recreational areas that do not have clear habitat restrictions, are more conducive to allowing dogs to run under voice command. As I am not currently a dog owner however, I would be open to listening and/or reviewing any study or statistically based information that would indicate that my opinion is inaccurate.
My vote in December of 2012 was my vote. At the time, I was not a dog owner. I was the parent of two small children, both of whom had been bitten by dogs, and irresponsible dog owners were at the forefront of my mind. We preferred to go to the beach in the evening, and the visits would have been significantly more pleasant without furry picnic-invaders and exuberant pups zooming around. I voted against it. As a rule, I don’t believe in collective punishment, but as a father, I didn’t think twice.
As a councilor, I will have constituents to consider. I will have to vote in the town’s best interests, not just my own. It’s easy to Monday morning quarterback and say that, had I been on the council in 2012, I would have voted differently, but I wasn’t in the room, and I didn’t follow the debate very closely. Looking back, it seems like the ordinance change was an overreaction to a singular, albeit very concerning, event. I am glad that the D.O.G.S. group organized and did what you thought was right. Though it’s unlikely that I will ever match your passion toward your cause, your decision to work together for meaningful change is an example of democracy at its finest.
I am not unhappy with what I know about the current animal control ordinance. I feel like we came to a good compromise and struck an appropriate balance. Could improvements be made? Almost certainly. I am, and will remain, open to hearing your perspective.
I voted against the most recent ordinance changes. I believe the current ordinance is unnecessarily restrictive, especially (but not limited to) the winter hours regulation. I think the prior ordinance was more than sufficient, but lacked proper enforcement. I like the addition of plover monitors (beach monitors) to add a layer of education and cooperation, but I am confident that the majority of dog walkers were already very understanding of the needs of the plovers and took adequate measures to ensure their protection. I didn’t feel then and I still don’t feel now, that there was sufficient evidence that dogs presented a unique threat to the plovers, though they were singled out as such. I think most reasonable animal owners are more that happy to help promote the welfare of a species, bird, or otherwise.
I think all who enjoy it can reasonably share the beach, while also ensuring the plovers (and other migratory shore birds) are protected. If elected I would continue to work to ensure the plovers remain adequately protected and look at ways to continue to strengthen the education and outreach programs, while also ensuring the proper level of enforcement is applied. I also would prefer that Scarborough maintain control of our beaches, rather than allow the USF&W to take control. We must balance the needs of the entire town and the USF&W have a very narrow scope of purpose.
I think we have reasonable accommodations with the other outdoor spaces, though I would want to ensure we don’t continue to restrict the available off leash opportunities of dog owners without specific and validated reasons to do so.
Having read the current animal control ordinance, I would say it is a balanced approach to a divisive issue. Like the DOGS website says, it should recognize the needs of everyone in the community. I did not vote in the special election because I did not use the beach. I am open to a review of the ordinance, which I understand is this year. A personal note: I went to Higgins Beach last week to watch the surfers, parkers and dog owners. I was quite shocked. I watched one dog owner let 5 dogs out of his SUV. They ran along the beach under no voice control whatsoever. The owner appeared to be completely unconcerned for the others using the beach. This brought to mind some of the complaints I have heard from people opposed to the DOGS group. This one irresponsible owner made a bad impression on the remainder of people on the beach. Some of the dogs defecated. The owner made no attempt to pick it up. I stopped going to the beach several years ago when I could not fish on the shore because of the dogs attempting to steal my bait, my lunch and urinating on my tackle box. These are irresponsible owner problems and enforcement problems, not necessarily ordinance problems. As is usually the case, one bad apple gives the rest of the group a bad name. The USFW played a part as they were interested in migratory bird defense, as they are supposed to do by law.