Reigning in the unleashed

Loose dogs endanger themselves and others

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— Dogs running on an unsupervised spring fling may be just indulging in new freedoms.

But law enforcement officials say more dogs at large means more work for them and more chances for the family pet to get sick or hurt.

Routt County Sheriff John Warner said a sure sign of spring in the valley is the increase of dogs running loose.

The Sheriff's Office averages about 15 calls a week for dogs at large, Routt County Animal Control Officer Cindy DeValle said.

"If you add Steamboat (Springs Police Department) calls, it probably goes up to about 35," she said.

Plus, Oak Creek, Hayden, Yampa, Stagecoach, Clark, Hahn's Peak Village and nearly every other community and hamlet in the county have seen a dramatic rise in the number of dogs reveling in the freedom of non containment, DeValle said.

But it's not all fun and games for the dogs when they run free.

DeValle said uncontrolled animals bite people, destroy property, mate with other dogs resulting in unwanted puppies and cause traffic accidents.

Dogs running loose also are at risk of dying or being injured from disease, fights, starvation and getting hit by cars, she said.

Veterinarian John Rule said he sees an increase in canines getting sick in the spring. Cases of an intestinal infection, Giardia which comes from a parasite that lives in untreated water increase because of spring run off.

Plus, more dogs are getting sick from eating dead animals or trash that is newly exposed after being frozen and covered with snow, he said.

Along with the bodily dangers stray dogs risk, animal control officers can write tickets to dog owners for allowing their pets to roam free. First offense is a $45 fine. A second offense results in a $60 fine and a third costs $85 and a mandatory court appearance, DeValle said.

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