A proposal to ban pets from Sharon's beaches has been made, two weeks after a majority of Sharon voters at the annual town meeting rejected a similarly intentioned plan.
Sharon Board of Health Vice Chairman Jay Schwab presented his proposed health board regulation during the board's meeting Monday night. Veteran's Memorial Park and Beach opens this weekend on a limited basis until the Sharon public schools' last day of school.
The health board deferred further discussion on Schwab's plan until its next meeting, at 7:30 p.m. next Tuesday, May 29, at the Sharon Town Offices.
By a voice vote, voters at the May 7 annual town meeting rejected a lake management study committee proposal to allow only service dogs, and dogs with a permit issued by selectmen, at the site. Police would fine violators $25 for the first offense, $50 for the second offense, and $100 for the third and subsequent offenses. Service dogs and dogs receiving a permit from the board of selectmen would be allowed.
Schwab's proposed regulation would ban dogs, horses and pets, except service animals "from the public bathing beaches and bathing water, and landings in the Town of Sharon 24 hours per day," and including the parking and access areas, starting "immediately upon publication."
Schwab said he drafted the text based on "what I feel is a strong health hazard" and "our charge as a board of health." Brewster has such regulations, he said.
"You go down to the lake tonight, you'll see dogs swimming in that lake," Schwab said.
"I cannot possibly imagine why anyone would want to follow a dog swimming in the lake."
The town meeting vote maintains the policy that selectmen adopted on Aug. 17, 2010 for the Beach Street site: dogs are prohibited from the beach from Memorial Day to Labor Day while the beach is staffed, or open for a public event, the policy states. Dogs are restricted to the path, and leashed, at all other times, the policy states.
Health board member Stanley Rosen said most other communities prohibit dogs from their lakefronts.
"This has been an ongoing thing for some time," Rosen said.
"It's kind of hard to rationalize why we would be the only community to allow dogs on the beach."
Health board members Edward Welch and Andrew Stead expressed disappointment with receiving Schwab's proposal at the meeting, rather than earlier.
"It's like shoving something down my throat," Welch said.
"Who's going to enforce it, for instance? Who's going to go down there and give people tickets?"
Schwab's proposal allows enforcement by "the animal control officer, any police officer, member of the conservation commission or lake management committee, or by any board of health agent."
Violators would face a non-criminal penalty of "$25 for the first offense, $50 for the second offense (and) $100 for any subsequent offense."
"The fact is that dog feces are dangerous and unhealthy," Schwab said earlier in the discussion of the beach and lake.
"They're a health hazard. There are children playing on that beach. There are people spending time on that beach. And there is no reason why people should be subject to the presence of dog feces on that beach.
"Most people involved with walking their dogs are conscientious enough to remove any fecal matter, or prevent it from happening."
Selectmen voted before town meeting to commission a study of Lake Massapoag's pollutants.
Health board Chairman Suzi Peck said she reviewed lake bacteria testing results "to see how much of a problem" existed.
Memorial Park Beach exceeded the standards twice last year, "at the very end of the summer," she said.
Peck said the results were "actually a little better last year than we had done in the previous year."
"I think we need to take the lake testing results into account when we talk about this," she said.
Lake Management Study Committee Chairman Clifford Towner said Sharon received "over 60 inches of rain" between 2010 and 2011.
"We had millions of gallons of water flowing out of that lake to keep it clean, so those bacteria readings aren't exactly true," Towner said.
"If we had normal rainfall with the readings that you had, it probably would close (the beach) half the summer."