GARDINER — Even as Gardiner elected officials voted Wednesday to impose a citywide leash law, they also agreed to form a committee to recommend revisions to it.

That move reflects the difference in interests between those who live in Gardiner’s more densely populated areas and those who live in more rural neighborhoods.

Since August, city officials have heard from residents about dog attacks and bites in and around downtown Gardiner and at Waterfront Park.

As a result, the City Council has been considering a change to the city’s ordinance to require dogs to be on leashes unless they are on their owners’ property or on the property of someone who permits them to be off the leash.

At a public hearing two weeks ago and again Wednesday, Peter Giampetruzzi brought his objections to city officials.

“It’s a knee-jerk reaction to a singular incident,” Giampetruzzi said. “It’s an erosion of my liberty and a deterioration of my quality of life in Gardiner.”

He noted that the ordinance would restrict the actions of law-abiding dog owners and would be ignored by those who were not responsible.

“This would not have prevented what happened in July,” he said, referring to a dog attack in the Arcade parking lot behind Water Street in July.

Under the ordinance, he said, he would not be able to let his dog swim in the Kennebec River without permission of the responsible party — President Donald Trump, he said, as commander in chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

He was joined by two other Gardiner residents who shared similar concerns about walking with and training dogs within the city’s boundaries.

Because making such a substantial change to the proposal would require the public hearing process to start again and postpone action until December or later, Mayor Thom Harnett said he did not want to delay it.

“It’s not a knee-jerk reaction,” Harnett said; it was the result of a series of complaints from city residents.

Harnett said he didn’t want to delay putting the ordinance in place while changes are contemplated.

The council voted 7-0-1, with Councilor Patricia Hart absent, to approve the change.

District 4 Councilor Marc Rines then moved to form a committee to consider how the ordinance could be adjusted, and he volunteered to lead the committee. The council agreed with his proposal. Recommendations are due back to the council by next spring.

In comments given at the public hearings and during public comments at earlier meetings, Gardiner residents talked about their concerns about encountering dogs that were not on leashes and recounted instances when dogs charged them or failed to respond immediately to voice commands.

City officials opted to pursue requiring leashes citywide, rather than imposing that restriction on just Gardiner’s parks and recreational areas.

At the state level, Rep. Matt Pouliot, R-Augusta, is expected to announce at a news conference Friday morning his plan to submit a bill for consideration in the next legislative session that would increase penalties against dog owners whose dogs attack people.

In July, Cynthia Roodman was attacked by two dogs in the Arcade parking lot. In the attack, she was bitten on both arms, her ear was ripped and she received a puncture wound on her hip.

She had 23 stitches and nine staples in her head. The owners took the dogs and left after the attack, so she also had two rounds of rabies shots, because there was no way to know immediately whether the dogs had been vaccinated.

After the attack, the dogs were held in quarantine at the Kennebec Valley Humane Society. At at the end of September, a district court judge ordered the dogs to be euthanized.

Jessica Lowell — 621-5632

[email protected]

Twitter: @JLowellKJ


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