City to host community meeting to discuss dog rule options
If you go
When: 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 16
Where: Citizens Hall
Steamboat Springs — Steamboat Springs residents will soon have a chance to speak their peace about all things dogs.
With debates about the city’s level of leash law enforcement and dog friendliness starting to heat up this summer, the city has scheduled a community meeting for Aug. 16 in Citizens Hall to seek input on its dog rules.
Police Chief Cory Christensen will present some proposed changes to the dog ordinance, including an increase in fines for not picking up animal waste.
“This isn’t about lining up and complaining about dogs off leash or dogs on leash or dog poop, it’s really about discussing options,” Christensen said.
Some options that will be up for discussion and debate include creating new off-leash hours at certain parks and trails, the creation of a new voice sight control program for dog owners and the creation of more dog parks.
Former city councilwoman Kathy Connell suggested on Wednesday that the city should create a task force to make recommendations about dog ordinances and park and trail usage.
The task force could also work with grant writers to secure new dog parks with private funding.
Connell said such a path has been successful here in the past, including when cross country skiers and snowmobilers used to come into conflict on Rabbit Ears Pass.
The Parks and Recreation Commission hosted a preview of the upcoming community meeting on Wednesday when it discussed the prospect of adding more dog parks.
The commission ultimately challenged dog advocates who are complaining about a lack of places to play with their pets to band together and research funding options and logistics for potential dog parks in the city.
But some commissioners made it clear that due to the city’s budget constraints, private funding would have to be involved.
“I think the notion of us creating new dog parks is way, way down on the priority list,” Commissioner Doug Tumminello told a crowd of dog advocates who attended the commission’s meeting on Wednesday. “I do not see the financing at any time in the near future, unless there is a citizen-led program to raise the funds … I throw that out there as a reality check.”
Tumminello said the commission should instead focus its time on discussing the usage of local trails to see if there are opportunities to allow off-leash dogs at certain parks and trails at certain times.
Several dog owners are complaining that the city’s two off-leash dog areas at Rita Valentine Park and Spring Creek Park are not sufficient.
Dog advocates are currently discussing the possibility of acquiring a parcel just west of Whistler Park as a dog park with water access.
Dog parks were just one part of the 95-minute discussion the commission hosted about dogs and leash law enforcement in the city.
Christensen kicked off Wednesday’s dog talk by sharing with the commission the things he has been hearing from dog owners.
“The bottom line is they are looking for better ways to enjoy time with their dogs,” Christensen said.
Christensen said he has been excited by research he has done looking into the prospect of a voice and sight command program that would allow dog owners who take a course to have dogs off leash in more places.
The police chief has been talking with the leaders of a program in Boulder that has been reporting good results. In that city, 7,600 dogs are registered in the program.
Christensen, who has a four-pound Pomeranian named Doodles at home, also addressed the recent complaints he has gotten about leash law enforcement.
He said despite more visibility of animal control officers in the community, there has not been an increase in the number of tickets being issued for off-leash dogs.
The animal control officers have written 75 tickets for off-leash dogs so far this year, with 25 of those tickets issued to dog owners who had their pets with them. The remaining 50 tickets were issued to dog owners who were not with the dogs when they were found.
Christensen said there were 130 tickets issued for off-leash dogs in 2013.
Still, Christensen said the increased presence of animal control officers and more frequent contact with dog owners about the leash laws has irked some residents.
“I’ve already been told by a few people that I have ruined their summer,” Christensen said.
Christensen said he was committed to finding solutions that will benefit both dog owners and community members who do not want to be approached or jumped on by off-leash dogs.
“I don’t like to ruin anybody’s summer,” Christensen said.
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