As a dog-owning resident in the Fish Creek Falls neighborhood off of Tamarack, I and other dog owners here are privileged to be able to take advantage of an open green area in the vicinity.
It is not unusual to find half a dozen dog owners and their animals there in the morning before work, and in the evening after work. Our typical practice is to allow our dogs off-leash to run and play and blow off some steam, all within the confines of the green area. They are always under owner supervision. They are never allowed into the street, or into the yards of nearby homeowners. Finally, the animals are scrupulously cleaned up after.
In short, we are responsible owners, and our dogs are a nuisance to no one.
A Steamboat Springs Animal Control officer appeared recently and threatened to cite us all for leash-law violations. During the ensuing discussion, the officer revealed that she was responding primarily to "dog at large" complaints, lodged by area homeowners who are understandably upset at dogs running loose in their yards.
While I understand the city has an obligation to enforce relevant statutes, I believe there must be some room for common sense to play a role. Penalizing responsible owners for the transgressions of the negligent does nothing to mitigate the problem of dogs at large. If I and all the responsible dog owners in my neighborhood -- along with our dogs -- were to disappear tomorrow, the dog-at-large problem would continue unabated. If the objective is to alter the behavior of reckless owners, punishing those of us who are conscientious will do nothing to achieve that end.
I think we might all benefit from some help from the community at large: report unsupervised dogs on the loose, and if possible, detain them for retrieval by Animal Control.
An owner bailing his dog out of "jail" pays $50 for the first infraction, $75 for the second, and $100 for the third. If it happens again, he gets to explain himself to a judge.
If we all work together to ensure that irresponsibility translates into monetary loss and substantial inconvenience, we can do a great deal to get the negligent owners to think twice.
There is an endless supply of irresponsible owners in Steamboat. But there are plenty of us at the opposite end of the spectrum, too. Try not to paint us all with the same brush.