Dog meeting in Steamboat Springs goes off leash
Steamboat Springs — A community meeting about dog issues went off leash Tuesday when some audience members started barking at city officials and claiming the city had declared war on dogs.
Some in the audience said the enforcement of the city’s leash law has been “unreasonable,” and they want to see changes soon.
A few residents also claimed they were feeling hunted by officers who are charged with enforcing the city’s animal ordinances.
It was former Steamboat Springs City Councilwoman Kathy Connell who brought the meeting back on leash and steered it toward a more productive conclusion.
“We cannot ask our police chief not to enforce the laws,” she said.
She urged community members who were frustrated by the enforcement of the leash law to volunteer for a new working group that will vet ideas for how to make the city more dog friendly while also respecting the rights of community members who don’t want to encounter off-leash dogs.
The committee will look into proposals ranging from the addition of new dog parks to the establishment of a voice-and-sound program to allow more dog owners to have their dogs off leash.
Several community members went up to the front of Citizens Hall to sign up for a chance to serve on the working group.
Connell said the plan is to approach the City Council with the idea. The group would then make recommendations to the council.
Connell, who along with several other community members is trying to lead an effort to make the city more dog friendly, said the group should have diverse views.
She even welcomed citizens who are against all things dogs to serve on it.
Many audience members said they wanted more places to take their dogs off leash and less strict rules.
While most of the people who packed Citizens Hall to discuss dog issues appeared to be in favor of relaxing the leash law enforcement, some community members in attendance wanted more protections against off-leash animals.
One woman said she and other senior citizens in her building have had bad experiences with off-leash dogs on trails, and that it had gotten to a point where she was afraid to use some trails after being knocked off her bike.
Another community member countered that she too was a senior citizen, and she was more afraid of the cyclists.
Sensing the meeting was devolving into arguments the council has already heard, City Council President Walter Magill urged the group to bring solutions to the city’s elected officials.
Police Chief Cory Christensen kicked off a more tame portion of the dog meeting by outlining some changes he is proposing to the city’s animal codes.
They include raising fines on tickets for failing to pick up animal excrement, adding a new provision that makes it illegal to leave a dog uncovered in the bed of a pickup without sufficient shade and water, and the addition of a fee schedule for individuals who are caught with unregistered dogs.
The new ordinance would also give the city’s municipal court judge the ability to seize abused animals.
Community members were also briefed on many of the city’s existing dog rules and the reasons behind them.
City officials thanked the community members in attendance for being passionate about the subject and their willingness to help come up with solutions.
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