, Gloucester, MA

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April 22, 2014

Leash-law options on table tonight

The fur may very well fly tonight at City Hall.

A proposed new dog ordinance, which may allow dogs to frolic leash free on city beaches, while also raising fines for owners who fail to pick up their dogs’ calling cards, will be up for a public hearing before Gloucester’s full City Council, a week after a council subcommittee passed a set of proposed changes without a recommendation to either approve or turn aside.

If the new ordinance gets approval from the City Council, the first offense for failing to pick up after a pooch is $50, and any subsequent offense is $100.

While dogs are allowed on city beaches during the fall and winter months, the City Council is also being presented with two off-leash options from an ad-hoc committee that began studying the city’s roughly 40-year-old ordinance last November.

The first option is to allow off-leash dogs on Good Harbor Beach and Wingaersheek Beach from Sept. 16 to April 30 — with the dogs allowed to run off leash from sunrise to 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. to sunset.

Another would be to allow dogs on the beaches from Oct. 1 to April 30 with off-leash times from sunrise to 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. to sunset.

The council meeting is set to start at 7 p.m. in City Hall’s Kyrouz Auditorium.

For a community with more than 6,000 registered dogs, the issue has been polarizing issue.

In one corner are those enthusiasts who say they want to run freely with their dog at certain times of the day and year; in the other are those who feel it is a threat to public health and safety, with other residents — especially those with smaller dogs and small children — being threatened by dogs running off leash and by dog feces left behind.

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