Waldoboro residents approved changes to the town’s dog ordinance during an open special town meeting at the town office Thursday, April 28.
The town office’s meeting room was filled with voters who raised points for and against the changes before ultimately passing the measure.
The dog ordinance was originally adopted June 12, 2004. Changes to the ordinance as a result of Thursday’s vote include the prohibition of domestic animals from the Pine Street Landing, the rest area on Route 32, and the town’s Marine Park.
Other changes authorize the Waldoboro Police Department, in addition to the town’s animal control officer, to initiate prosecution for violations of the rules.
Violations of the dog ordinance include a penalty of $50-$200 for a first offense. For further violations, the penalties grow by a minimum of $50 above the prior violation.
Prior to the vote, Waldoboro Police Chief Bill Labombarde spoke on the enforcement aspects of the amendments.
The chief said violations to the ordinance are civil, not criminal, offenses and would not go on someone’s record.
He said in the event of a violation, the state would provide a judge to hear the case, but not a prosecutor, meaning the town attorney would have to prosecute the case at the town’s expense.
“It’s the enforcement piece when you get past the layer of local law enforcement and it gets up into the county court – that’s where it is going to start costing us money, and that is something that we need to just be aware of,” Labombarde said.
“Whatever the town decides, we are going to enforce to the best of our ability,” Labombarde said.
He said the department has been educating the public during property checks at the landing, informing them of the rules.
Waldoboro Shellfish Committee Co-chair Glen Melvin kick-started the move to change the ordinance due to the impact of pollutants, including dog waste, on the town’s stretch of the Medomak River.
Speaking in front of the Waldoboro Board of Selectmen on March 8, Melvin said the area of the river known as Tom’s Shore was recently closed to digging, an area by the town landing had been closed due to pollution, and an area referred to as the West Side is one bad test away from closing.
After the special town meeting, Melvin said the new rules are a step in the right direction.
“There is no question Waldoboro is moving forward. The river is too much to risk. The financial repercussions are enormous,” Melvin said.
After other public comments, a letter was read into the record opposing the amendments.
Elizabeth Foley, a resident who lives on the river, said she is in support of a clean river but opposes the measure because she feels the changes are shortsighted and only address a portion of the pollution entering the waterway, explaining many individuals visiting the river don’t make a concerted effort to pick up their own trash.
“This is a quick and easy solution. It might have been more impactful if we had a better and more comprehensive plan,” Foley said.
Foley also said she thinks changing the dog ordinance is just a step toward protecting the river.
“I see what people dump on my property, what they dump in the river, and I really think we need to do more education, not just about the dog waste, but I think we need to do more education about all the waste that is going into the river,” Foley said.