Barbara Everett chats with a neighbor Thursday night on Willard Beach in South Portland. She was cited Tuesday for violating the city’s dog ordinances, based on a photograph taken by an anonymous person at Willard Beach. The city rescinded the ticket after an outpouring of posts on social media. Michele McDonald/Staff Photographer

A South Portland resident was cited this week for violating the city’s new dog ordinances based on a photograph taken by an anonymous person at Willard Beach.

The charge: Having a dog ball on the beach.

Twenty-four hours after Barbara Everett received the $35 ticket, however, and after an outpouring of posts about it on social media, the city rescinded it.

The photograph, attached to the citation she received, shows Barbara Everett, another person and Everett’s dog, standing by a ball at Willard Beach Aug. 17. Dog toys, including balls, are not allowed at Willard Beach. Contributed by Barbara Everett

Everett says the picture of her and her dog does not show her violating any ordinances and she’s worried that the issuance of a ticket based on an anonymous photo will encourage more “vigilante surveillance” by South Portland residents.

City Manager Scott Morelli, in an email Wednesday to The Forecaster, said the city “uses photographic and video evidence provided by members of the public to pursue possible charges for ordinance or other law violations.” He cited examples of photos showing snow being pushed into a roadway, trash pickup being conducted during prohibited hours, and store owners taking photos of a shoplifter.

“In this case, although our staff was well within their legal rights to issue a citation based on the photograph and oral statements provided to the city,” Morelli wrote,” the Parks & Recreation Director has rescinded the citation to the resident, and instead issued a written warning that future violations will result in further enforcement action, since this was not the first time that either City Park Rangers or other beach users have witnessed this same individual playing ball with their dog on the beach.”


Everett had also received a warning from Park Ranger Sydney Raftery Aug. 11 for using a ball to play fetch with her dog, Willa. That warning was referenced in the citation she received in the mail Tuesday.

“She didn’t stop me while I was doing it,” Everett told The Forecaster, adding that she was throwing the ball for her dog around 7 a.m. on Aug. 11. “Around 8:30, when I was leaving, she confronted me and said she’d seen me throwing the ball, and if she saw it again I’d get a ticket.”

Throwing a ball to a dog violates an amendment the City Council added in June, after a year of discussion and often contentious public debate, to its ordinance pertaining to dogs on the beach.

The amendment prohibits the use of dog toys, such as balls and ball throwers, on the beach from May 1 through Sept. 30. It permits dog toys from Oct. 1 through April 30 “but only on the section of Willard Beach located between Beach Street and Fort Preble.”

The photo with a time and date stamp that was sent to the park ranger and spurred the citation shows Everett on Willard Beach Aug. 17 with another person and her dog, Willa, standing by a ball. Everett said the ball did not belong to her.

Everett said she thinks the anonymous photographer sought her out because she had spoken at a City Council meeting the night before to protest the ban on balls for dogs at the beach and had mentioned the area of the beach she and Willa frequent in the mornings.


“The big thing, above and beyond getting a ticket because your dog is sitting next to the ball: It’s the surveillance,” Everett said. “(Raftery) felt it was OK to send me a ticket based off a photograph of my dog standing near a ball. She didn’t witness it.”

Barbara Everett walks her dog Thursday night on Willard Beach. Michele McDonald/Staff Photographer

Everett fears that issuing a ticket as a result of an anonymous photograph will encourage those who have taken issue with dogs on the beach to conduct further surveillance of dog owners.

“That seems pretty scary, that our community is headed that way. You don’t want to be looking over your shoulder … it’s a sad commentary on where the divide has gotten us,” she said, referring to the rift between dog owners and beachgoers.

Other dog owners have similar concerns.

“We are disappointed that there is this acceptance or no discouragement … for people reporting on their neighbors and taking pictures,” said Ellen Clancy, a moderator of the South Portland Dog Owners Group, which has over 1,200 members on Facebook. “It’s not the way life should be.”

Dogs at Willard Beach have been the source of heated debate among residents that has soaked up hours of City Council meetings, workshops, and an ad hoc committee’s time over the past year. The council amended existing ordinances, including off-leash hours at the beach, in June as a compromise between dog owners and beachgoers.


The city issued 29 citations to dog owners at Willard Beach in May, June and July, according to a report from Raftery, the ranger, at the Aug. 16 council meeting. Nine of the citations were issued to South Portland residents. 

Raftery and other park rangers counted an average of 29 dogs on the beach during permitted morning time in May, 32 on June mornings and 35 in July. The largest number of dogs counted on the beach at one time, 70, was recorded in July.

During the permitted evening hours, between 55 and 72 people were on the beach, with and without dogs, on average during those three months, Raftery said.

From May through July, rangers made 310 “contacts,” which Raftery described as “anyone we had to approach and talk to about one of the dog rules on the beach.”

Just over half of the contacts were due to owners violating the 7 to 9 a.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. hours, the majority of whom did so within five minutes of dog hours ending. There were 41 contacts over voice control and 19 for entering the dunes.

The amendments the council made, including prohibiting toys and the 7 to 8 p.m. on-leash requirement, took effect June 28. In June and July, rangers had to approach 34 dog owners for having toys on the beach and 59 owners for not complying with the hour-long on-leash requirement.

Rangers also found that more people without dogs were on the beach during the 7 to 8 p.m. timeframe after the on-leash requirement took effect.

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