New off-leash dog trails in Steamboat come with some hiccups, but dog advocates say response is positive so far | SteamboatToday.com

New off-leash dog trails in Steamboat come with some hiccups, but dog advocates say response is positive so far

Carole Buelter plays with Cecil at Spring Creek Park.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The city of Steamboat Springs' decision to add more off-leash areas for dogs has not come without consequences for some residents and one innocent goat who was recently out for a stroll on the Butcherknife Canyon Trail.

Steamboat Police Commander Annette Dopplick said an off-leash dog utilizing the new off-leash area on the Butcherknife trail recently attacked a goat that was being walked from one property to another on a leash.

When dogs are off-leash, they still must be in control under voice and sight command.

Dopplick said she hasn't compiled all of the statistics on the new off-leash areas yet, but she is aware of two other cases of aggressive dogs attacking other dogs on the off-leash trails.

"It's not a free for all," she said of the new off-leash areas. "Dog owners have responsibilities for the actions of their dogs."

All of the dog owners in the three cases were cited by the city.

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Overall though, Dopplick said she only has received about a handful of complaints from residents who are frustrated by encountering off-leash dogs around the city.

And dog advocates say the implementation of the new off-leash areas has been going smoothly despite a few hiccups, including dog owners who continue not to pick up after their pets.

"I think it's gone really well," Steamboat Digs Dogs leader Kathy Connell said. "It's a lot of work for volunteers."

Connell said the group has organized a couple of dog poop pickup days around the city.

They are also trying to raise funds for some humorous and eye-catching signs that might convince more dog owners to pick up after their pets.

"There still are people not picking up after their dogs," she said.

Connell said there are plans in the works to start a new volunteer program that will help educate dog owners about the rules in off-leash areas.

"We are still so early in our try-this-on-for-size," Dopplick said of the new off-leash areas.

In addition to the couple of reports of aggressive dogs, Dopplick said she has heard from some senior citizens in Old Town who are fearful of the new off-leash areas implemented on nearby routes they use to walk.

"They feel like they've been surrounded by these off-leash areas," she said.

The off-leash areas are part of a trial program, so the City Council will hear a report on how the program has been next summer.

Dopplick encouraged trail users to show respect for one another.

"I would ask that folks be open to each other in hearing information about the trails," she said. "There's many well-informed citizens who are striving to get the info to their fellow dog-loving citizens, and when somebody suggests maybe you put your dog on a leash, that's not a personal attack but an effort to create a dog-friendly community space. Let's hear each other and help each other."

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