YORK, Maine — Local groups took to the trails last weekend to engage community members in a conversation about the importance of leashing and picking up after pets on publicly accessible land preserves.
Dubbed “Pet Ambassador Day,” the effort aimed to share how these rules keep pets, wildlife and other people safe.
“We’re so glad to be able to offer the community a place to bring their dogs and enjoy the outdoors,” said Doreen MacGillis, executive director of York Land Trust. “By complying with these rules, hikers ensure that our preserves remain accessible and safe for everyone who visits.”
The coordinated effort included York Land Trust, Kittery Land Trust, Great Works Regional Land Trust, Mt. Agamenticus Conservation Program, the York and Kittery Water Districts, the York Parks and Recreation Department and others. Volunteer ambassadors from these groups handed out poop bag dispensers and shared information about the rationale behind the Town of York’s Animal Control Ordinance, which requires hikers to pick up and carry out all pet waste and keep pets on leashes no longer than 15 feet. Violations can result in fines.
The ambassadors encountered dozens of hikers over the course of the weekend, many of whom engaged in conversation. Some of the information the ambassadors shared included that unleashed dogs are more susceptible to dangerous encounters with porcupines and rabid wildlife, and are at a greater risk of injury during hunting and trapping season. Unleashed dogs can also aggravate other dogs and other hikers, particularly now during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are also more likely to trample sensitive plants and disrupt bird nests and other dwellings of rare or endangered animals.
“We are extremely fortunate to live in an area that has a great deal of biological diversity,” said Nan Graves, an organizer of the effort and a York Land Trust board member. “Dog owners don’t always realize the potential hazards unleashed dogs pose to these ecologically sensitive areas.”
Pet waste can also contain parasites that threaten local wildlife and contaminate local drinking water supplies. Adhering to local rules helps protect these water supplies and helps ensure that public preserves remain safe and accessible for all community members and their pets, organizers said.
The groups said they intend to continue their coordinated efforts in the community.