SCARBOROUGH — A new ordinance aimed at keeping manure off town beaches by making horses wear manure catchers has the owners crying foul.

The Town Council voted unanimously Sept. 6 to amend the Horse Beach Permit Ordinance to require riders to attach “a containment device to the rear of each and every horse so operated.”

Councilor Bill Donovan, chairman of the town’s Ordinance Committee, said the ordinance came in response to complaints about manure left on the beach. He said riders typically leave the manure to be swept out to sea by the next high tide, but it often can sit on the beach “for hours at a time.”

After passage of the ordinance led to complaints from other town residents, Donovan said he’ll push to have the ordinance changed to give owners a year to train their horses to wear the waste bags.

Horses are allowed on Pine Point Beach in Scarborough and Old Orchard Beach from Oct. 1 to March 31, with a $20 permit from either town. The neighboring towns aligned their ordinances to allow horseback riders, racehorses with sulkies and others to use the intertidal zone, between the high-tide line and the mean low-water line.

In Old Orchard Beach, Town Clerk Tody Justice said horses were required to wear the containment systems on beaches before the two municipalities adopted reciprocal licensing in 2009. Scarborough did not have the requirement.

The Old Orchard Beach Town Council was planning to amend its ordinance to match Scarborough’s at its Oct. 4 meeting, but tabled the matter after 10 people objected to the proposed ordinance. The riders said they did not learn about the change in Scarborough until after it passed.

Riders said horse manure is organic and the Environmental Protection Agency does not consider it to be harmful to the environment. They said they ride at low tide, and that it’s customary to let animal waste be swept out to sea with the next high tide.

Stephanie Keene, an instructor and owner of Hearts and Horses Therapeutic Riding Center in Buxton, said after the meeting that the vast majority of riders use English saddles, which don’t have hooks for attaching a containment system.

Keene said new saddles could cost horse owners between $350 and $5,000, in addition to the containment systems, which can cost up to $200. Keene said she knows no one who has a horse trained to accept the system.

This horse manure bag retails for $64.99 on the Working Horse Tack website.

“There is no way I could safely attach it to the horse and go for a ride,” she said.

Keene said she started her business in 1993 in Scarborough and has been riding on local beaches since she was a child. She said most people are excited to see the horses on the beach, often stopping to take photos, and she has only had one person complain.

She said owners routinely remove manure above the water line and in parking lots, and that people should be more worried about human and dog waste on beaches.

Donovan, the Scarborough town councilor, said owners must still comply with rules requiring that they clean up after their horses and not rely on the next tide to do it.

He said he plans to propose an amendment at the council’s meeting Wednesday to delay the containment-system requirement in Scarborough until Oct. 1, 2018, to give horse owners time to obtain the systems and train their horses.

Donovan said the amendment would have to go through the normal process of first reading, public hearing and second reading. The public hearing could be combined with the second reading, so the change could be approved at the Nov. 1 meeting.

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