Our View: Steamboat City Council offers fair off-leash plan | SteamboatToday.com

Our View: Steamboat City Council offers fair off-leash plan

— The Steamboat Springs City Council took a good first step last week toward increasing off-leash dog privileges for residents and their pets, and it shouldn’t be the last.

In a 4-2 vote Tuesday, the council agreed to allow dogs to roam Rita Valentine Park off leash as long as those dogs are under voice and sight control at all times. The ordinance, expected to go into effect later this month, specifies that control means “the owner or keeper of the dog is in sight of the dog and is in sufficient control of the dog’s behavior that it does not charge, chase or otherwise display aggression toward any person, dog, wild animal, or fail to come and stay with the owner or keeper immediately upon command.”

It’s good to see Rita Valentine Park being used for a purpose that stands to attract more of the community to the hidden pocket of open space off Anglers Drive. An area of the park near its parking lot has been used as an off-leash trial area.

Also included in the new ordinance is designation of First Pond off Spring Creek Trail as an off-leash area. City officials pointed out that the partially fenced pond already serves as a place for owners to let their pets fetch balls from the water.

The remainder of Spring Creek Trail is not an off-leash area for dogs, and we’re pleased the council kept it that way. There are simply too many users — from cyclists to runners to horseback riders to the occasional motorist — on the trail to safely allow off-leash dogs.

We like that the city is codifying “sight and voice control” and hope it is enforced going forward. Responsible dog owners with well-trained pets should be given more latitude in where they can take their animals off leash. But such an evolution takes time.

Now that Steamboat dog owners are set to have an officially designated place to allow their dogs to roam without the constraints of a leash, we hope they demonstrate the responsibility that could lead to expanded off-leash areas in the future. And that responsibility extends beyond the boundaries of Rita Valentine Park.

As Councilman Walter Magill pointed out Tuesday, there are an inexcusable number of dog owners who don’t pick up their pet’s waste. There are many more who allow their dogs to play fetch off leash in neighborhood parks and other areas. We hope this new ordinance, coupled with the future actions of dog owners, pushes the city in a direction where further expanded off-leash areas are possible.

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