Steamboat Springs The city has expanded a program that allows dogs to be off-leash in two city parks, but some proponents are pushing for an even more relaxed approach to dog regulations in Steamboat Springs.
The Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation Commission voted unanimously to allow dogs to play off-leash at Rita Valentine Park and Lower Spring Creek Pond from dawn to dusk, seven days a week. The move follows a pilot program that allowed dogs off-leash at the parks only during certain hours on designated days. Open Space Supervisor Craig Robinson said there were no incidents or complaints about dogs being off-leash in the parks throughout the pilot program.
"I think it's fantastic. It took about two years, but we got what we were after," Frank Cefaratti, leader of the Responsible Dog Ownership Group of Steamboat, said about the expansion of off-leash opportunities. "It's long overdue."
There have been no changes to the city's leash laws elsewhere in the city.
"Everywhere else in town, beside these two areas, the leash law remains in effect," Robinson said. "And at all times and in all areas, dog owners are required to pick up and dispose of the dogs' waste."
RDOGS and others now are hoping to see the city further liberalize its dog regulations to allow well-behaved dogs off their leashes even more.
"Steamboat deserves to be dog-friendly and people-friendly," said local photographer Joseph Cosby, who said he gathered more than 250 signatures in less than five hours from dog owners who said they would be willing to pay $50 to take a test to prove that their dogs are social and under voice command in exchange for the right to have their dogs off-leash in more areas. "That gives owners much more latitude than two parks. If the dogs can pass that test, what's the problem?
"New York City has off-leash dog parks. That doesn't make it dog-friendly."
As it stands, Cosby said, Steamboat is earning a reputation as a dog-unfriendly place. He said he doesn't think officers should be citing dog owners for having dogs off-leash and should respond to problems only when they are reported.
Steamboat resident Michael Turner, however, said the city should actively enforce its laws.
"If they want to designate a certain place, I think that's a great idea," Turner said. "On the other hand, if they're going to do that, I still support the city aggressively enforcing the leash laws within the city limits."
Turner also said he would not support allowing dogs off-leash throughout the city because he has had too many experiences of dogs whose owners say they are under voice control interfering with or acting aggressively toward him.
To take advantage of the city's trial off-leash hours, dog owners must watch a video and receive a voice control certification from the city. All dogs in Routt County are required to be licensed and vaccinated for rabies. This can be done at the Steamboat Springs Animal Shelter.
For more information, call the city's Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department at 879-4300 or Cefarratti at 870-3363.