Councilman raises idea of publicizing names of residents who violate city’s leash law | SteamboatToday.com

Councilman raises idea of publicizing names of residents who violate city’s leash law

Councilman raises idea of publicizing names of those who violate city's leash law

Steamboat Springs resident Brock Webster walks his dog in downtown Steamboat Springs.

— A Steamboat Springs City Council member wants to put residents who don't pick up after their pets or abide by leash laws in the dog house.

Well, at least on paper.

During a community discussion Friday about how to encourage local pet owner etiquette and reduce conflicts, Councilman Scott Ford had an out-of-the-box idea.

He suggested tapping into the community's "voyeuristic characteristics" by starting a regular column in the newspaper or on the city's website titled, "In the Doghouse" that would list the names of individuals who are cited for not obeying city ordinances related to dog ownership.

The list could be accompanied by educational statements and tips about pet etiquette.

Ford, a dog owner himself, feels the list could lead to more community conversations about the city's dog rules while increasing enforcement and education.

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It also would motivate residents to avoid be ticketed so their friends wouldn't see they were cited, Ford said.

"We all read the jail report every week with the same question," Ford said. "Is there anyone in there that I know?"

Some community members who attended a public Coffee with Council meeting held by Ford expressed support for the idea.

Others thought it was humorous.

Police Chief Cory Christensen wasn't ready to endorse the tactic.

He said he did not favor "public shaming" and thought his officers, who write the tickets, would take heat for the column.

"It's not our job to spike the ball in the end zone and put everyone's name in the paper," Christensen said.

He added he would support the move only if it were proven such a column would increase compliance.

A community member also raised concern about due process and suggested it wouldn't be fair to publish someone's name if the citation were later dismissed or overturned on appeal.

In addition to the column, community members raised ideas such as increasing fines for animal violations and creating new spaces in which dogs are allowed to go off leash.

Christensen said his animal control officers report the number of people who are currently violating city rules on dogs is "getting insane," adding many residents actively evade officers.

He shared a story about some residents with dogs off leash who spotted an officer while in Whistler Park, where dogs must be leashed, and ran to trails in the county to avoid being ticketed.

In another case, he said, a person ran into their home and locked the door when an animal control officer tried to approach and talk to them.

Enforcing the leash law has been tough, city officials said, due to the amount of ground to cover in the city and limited resources.

And when residents are confronted about the leash law, they often yell back that this is Dog Town USA, and they don't see the harm in their dogs being off leash.

In addition, with only two off-leash dog parks, there aren't many places the estimated 4,700 dogs in the city can run free.

Leash law enforcement became a cause for concern in recent months after off-leash dogs ran at a moose that became agitated and nearly trampled a man and an infant on Spring Creek Trail.

After that incident and other close calls with moose, the city began stepping up leash law enforcement.

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210, email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottFranz10