The city will add some bite to its leash-law enforcement, threatening to give tickets to repeat offenders.
In the past 30 days, the city has issued 36 warnings for dogs off leashes on the Spring Creek Trail and 14 warnings on the Yampa River Core Trail. Future violations could mean tickets for repeat offenders, City Manager Paul Hughes said.
"Very shortly, those warnings will become tickets," Hughes said. "Everyone is aware by now that we have a leash law."
A ticket for a dog off its leash, or a dog at large, is $50 for the first violation, $75 for a second violation and $100 for the third offense.
Community Service Officer Tara Yohannan, who has issued warnings, said the enforcement increased after the city received complaints about dogs off their leashes and owners failing to clean up after their dogs. Since warnings have been handed out, more people are following the law, she said.
The most complaints were made in the Spring Creek and Core Trail areas, but Yohannan said complaints also have been made on the Blackmer Drive and Emerald Mountain area.
Residents have contacted the city about stepped up enforcement of the law, which requires all dogs to be on a 6-foot leash in city parks and on city trails, Hughes said.
"There is a growing sense from those who don't own dogs or owners that have dogs and keep them on leashes that the rest of the dog owners should follow the rules," Hughes said.
Hughes said the city would like to have a ticket machine similar to the ones used by parking enforcement officers. Those machines know how many times a ticket has been issued for a particular vehicle. The city does not have any mechanism to determine how many times a person has been cited when writing a ticket.
City Director of Public Safety Services J.D. Hays said the officer who patrols the trails would be keeping an eye out for repeat offenders. The decision to give a ticket or fine is up to the individual officer, and if that officer comes across a dog owner who is not using a leash and already has been given a warning, a ticket will be issued.
Last week, city councilwomen Susan Dellinger and Kathy Connell both said they supported the leash laws but recommended the city look for other alternatives that would allow dogs to safely be off their leashes.
Hughes said when dog owners realize that not following the city's law could infringe on other people's rights, the city will then sit down and talk about dog parks.
"We want to get folks to understand they are part of a community," he said.