Our view: Don’t be part of the problem
The city of Steamboat Springs has ramped up enforcement of its leash law.
Enforcement is necessary to ensure compliance, and that should not be a problem for people who control their dogs in the first place.
The city’s leash law is back in the news, and increased enforcement of the existing ordinance has some dog owners feeling as if they’re being collared. It’s always a potentially divisive issue, especially in a community that several years ago was crowned Dog Town USA by Dog Fancy magazine.
In general, we think the city should enforce all of its ordinances, so we don’t think city leaders are out of line to enforce an existing leash law. And, in our opinion, the rules that govern dogs in public places should not be an inconvenience to people who control their dogs in the first place.
The city would not be discussing leash law enforcement if there weren’t people disregarding the law and inflicting their dogs on other people. Anecdotally, we know there have been instances of people being jumped on or knocked off their bikes by off-leash dogs as they were walking or riding the Core Trail and the same stories hold true on certain trails across town.
More specifically, the Steamboat Springs Police Department responded to approximately 700 calls for service involving a dog complaint in 2015, which represents about 5 percent of total calls for service. Last year, there were also 42 dog bite calls, and, of those calls, 30 percent involved a dog that was off leash.
We believe the majority of dog owners are socially responsible and pick up after their pets and also keep their dogs on leash where they should, but it’s those pet owners who think their dogs are under control and not a problem who are ultimately creating this need for increased enforcement.
Do we think this is the city’s greatest problem? No. But we also don’t think there’s anything wrong with the city enforcing an existing law to try to curb a problem that’s creating a public nuisance and public safety issue for people trying to enjoy Steamboat’s busy trails and parks.
Ultimately, the animal control officers who are charged with enforcing the city’s leash law are only doing their job, and we encourage the dog-loving public to realize this and show the officers the respect they deserve. And if you don’t like the law, don’t take it out on the officers.
Since this discussion about the leash law has resurfaced, we have heard a number of creative solutions being proposed by members of the community. There are those who favor the creation of more dog parks or off-leash areas in town, and there are others who want to see Steamboat follow Boulder’s lead and create a program that would allow for an off-leash provision for voice and sight control of dogs if the owners completed a course and registered for a special tag.
A Steamboat Today staff member suggested the city hold off-leash “happy hours” at different parks throughout the year. On a certain day of the week, one of the city’s parks would allow dogs to run off-leash for an hour — kind of an amnesty for dogs and their owners.
These are all ideas that community members can present when the city hosts a public meeting about the topic. According to Police Chief Cory Christensen, the meeting will be held at the end of July or in early August, but a specific date has not been set.
We encourage members of the public to attend that meeting and participate in an open discussion about an issue that’s definitely got the community talking.
In the end, it’s all about personal responsibility. If you want to keep from getting a ticket, make your dog behave and abide by the city’s rules.
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