Residents urge City Council to make Steamboat more dog friendly
Steamboat Springs — Leaders of an effort to make Steamboat Springs more dog friendly are reporting progress following a meeting with the city’s chief of police.
Former city councilwoman Kathy Connell is one of the residents urging the city to create more dog parks and tweak its ordinances and the level of leash law enforcement to make them friendlier to dog owners.
The talks between the city and the dog owners started as a response to an increased level of leash law enforcement in the city that has irked Connell and several other residents.
Some residents have told the City Council they feel they are now being “hunted” on local trails and parks.
Others have praised the increased enforcement and believe it is needed to protect wildlife, humans and the animals themselves.
While the dog owners pushing for change acknowledge leash laws are important in places such as the Yampa River Core Trail, some are questioning whether they should be enforced in some other parts of the city and at local ponds.
Connell said the city needs to find a better balance with its level of enforcement.
“We know that there have been irresponsible dog owners that have caused this new intense focus (on leash law enforcement), but our humble belief is we can still be Dog Town USA and let the good dog owners and dogs have an opportunity to play and get into the water,” Connell said.
Connell said one of the things the city and the dog advocates are looking into is the acquisition of land on Walton Creek to create a new off-leash dog park in the city.
Mount Werner Water and Sanitation District currently owns the land.
Residents had other suggestions for the City Council that included starting a new voice control program that would allow dog owners to walk their pets off leash in certain areas if they go through the training program.
Karin Kagan said the city should consider establishing off-leash hours on certain days in such places as Blackmere Drive on Emerald Mountain.
Police Chief Cory Christensen told the City Council he was committed to working with dog owners who are seeking changes.
“I am absolutely committed to finding alternatives. That is the bottom line,” Christensen said.
The tone of the comments made Tuesday in the council’s chambers was noticeably less critical of the city’s two animal control officers than they have been at previous meetings.
Christensen recently defended his officers against complaints, saying body camera footage he has reviewed has shown they act professionally when interacting with citizens and educating them about the laws.
After the animal control officers reported they were facing verbal abuse from some residents, the City Council called on residents to come to the policymakers if they had a beef with the leash laws.
As a result of a growing dialogue about the leash laws in the community, the city is planning to host a public meeting, likely in early August, to discuss the city ordinances and possible changes.
While some residents are pushing for less leash law enforcement, others are happy to see the city’s new focus on enforcing the laws.
In a letter to the editor, Tinker Tiffany wrote that she has had friends’ pets mauled by off-leash dogs.
“I am glad we have hardworking animal control officers who I think are doing a fantastic job. I’m glad they have more time to patrol,” Tiffany wrote. “After all that is their job description and their time is absolutely justified. I don’t think they are on a witch hunt for doing the job they are supposed to do following the ordinances our city put on the books.”
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