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Letting the dogs loose

Canine ownership group advocates for off-leash time in city parks

Frank Cefaratti plays with his black labrador retrievers, Jack and Hoover, near his office at the Mountain View Car Wash on March 1. Cefaratti is leading a drive for off-leash play times and areas for local dog owners and their pooches.
Brian Ray

— Frank X. Cefaratti wants to let the dogs out, at least for a little while in certain places.

Cefaratti has developed a proposal for local dog owners to enjoy legal, off-leash recreation in different parks around the city.

“My proposal is simply to use a handful of existing parks at designated times, for people to recreate with their dogs off leash,” Cefaratti said. “In doing this, the expenditure would be minimal because all that would be needed is proper signage and doggie waste stations.”



Currently, there is no legal place where a dog can be off leash except for the dog owner’s private property, according to leash laws.

The only exceptions include police dogs, rescue dogs, working cattle dogs, sheep guard dogs or a dog that is under voice command of its owner who is hunting, said Cindy Del Valle, Routt County animal safety officer. “It is for the safety of the general public and for the animals themselves,” she said.



Cefaratti has resurrected a group that was started a couple years ago called Responsible Dog Ownership Group of Steamboat or R.D.O.G.S.

“It is a group of concerned citizens interested in designating off leash recreation places and times for pets and their owners to socialize,” he said. “People are already there with their dogs – whether it be on a leash or off a leash – this is putting in guidance to do it legally.”

Cefaratti’s proposal includes Rotary Park, Lithia Springs, Riverside Picnic Park, Fetcher Park, Blackmer Drive and Spring Creek Trail. Not including Mondays, the proposal would entail two hours at each different proposed park, Cefaratti said.

“That leaves 80 percent of the time for a dog to be there on the leash.”

Cefaratti plans to take this proposal to the Steamboat Spr-ings Parks & Recreation commission to review the pros and cons, and he hopes they will take it in front of Steamboat Springs City Council.

“The pros are that the patrol officers would not have to battle this ongoing trauma and there would be fewer infractions of the rules, and fewer incidences occurring with dogs off leash, because it would be in a controlled place and time,” he said. “The cons would be that people are concerned about dog waste, and people are concerned about dogs off leash.”

Dawn Smith, animal control officer for the city of Steam-boat Springs thinks the proposal needs some amendments.

“We need to talk about the kind of signage and parameters and hours and different types of enforcement,” she said. “Every dog needs to be licensed and have a visible license.”

The leash law has been in effect since the 1970s, but the ordinance has been in effect for a longer period of time, Smith said.

If someone is cited for having their dog off leash, the fine is generally $50 and increases with the number of instances.

Smith estimates there are up to 10,000 dogs in the city, and with the growing population come a growth in problems associated with them.

Smith hopes the community understands the importance of the current leash law.

“For somebody who’s afraid of dogs – it doesn’t matter how nice your dog is – it can be a really scary thing for them, ” she said. “We had a girl injured on the bike path this winter when a very friendly dog jumped up on her and gave her a head and knee injury.”

Other possible problems can include dogfights and waste management issues.

“We will have to work on ideas to keep it under control,” Smith said. “If done right, it’s a really good idea. Having dogs in a social situation is good for the dog.”

Det. Capt. Bob Del Valle said the Steamboat Springs Police Department issued 125 dog at large citations in 2006.

“We probably write 2.5 dog at large tickets a week,” he said. “We are not opposed to the proposal, but there will be some issues that will come up, especially at some of the parks they listed.”

The issues he anticipates involve the capacity of the designated sites and possible water quality issues at Lithia Springs.

Cefaratti eventually would like to see a “doggie park” in the city.

“This is all just a proposal that I would like to open for discussion, and would like the public to support,” he said.


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