Owners speak on dog issues | SteamboatToday.com

Owners speak on dog issues

Christine Metz

Dog owners told city officials Wednesday that Steamboat Springs needs less restrictive leash laws and more designated off-leash areas for its substantial canine population to play.

Of the more than 40 people who attended a city-hosted meeting to discuss the leash laws, the majority were dog owners or “dog supporters.”

“The way it is now, the leash law makes no sense,” resident Sarah Katherman said, to agreement from the crowd at the Steamboat Springs Community Center.

Katherman asked that concessions be added to the leash law to allow, for example, a place for dogs to swim in rivers.

The city’s Public Safety and Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services departments sponsored the meeting. The discussion was prompted by increased enforcement of the leash law along Spring Creek Trail and public reaction to it.

Of the residents who found fault with the existing leash law, some suggested that Spring Creek or other trails be designated as off-leash areas. Some suggested designating certain days of the week when those areas would be leash-free zones.

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Others questioned whether the leash law is safe for people who like to bring their dogs along on bicycle rides or let their dogs go swimming in running water.

People asked why the city has not built a dog park and suggested that the city look at successful dog parks in other cities.

Others at the meeting suggested more creative penalties for owners caught breaking the leash laws. Sanctions for loose dogs include a community service element, requiring offenders to pick up dog waste or do other pet-related work, they suggested.

Resident Joanne Lasko said she heard three themes come out of Wednesday’s meeting: that Spring Creek should be an off-leash area some or all of the time; that a dog park is needed; and that the city should consider designating other trails as off-leash areas.

She said the city should look at trails that are not in residential areas, such as Spring Creek, that do not have vehicular traffic, are not near private land and have users who know to pick up after their dogs. Designating those areas as off-leash areas would make sense and not cost the city anything, Lasko said.

“It’s a matter of if we can get the law changed. Is there any way we can cut to the quick and come out of this meeting already one step ahead?” Lasko asked.

City Parks Director Chris Wilson said that much of what was agreed upon at Wednesday’s meeting was preaching to the choir and it might be better to take those suggestions to a more diverse task force.

Wilson asked people to sign up to be part of a task force to help tackle the problem of accommodating dog owners with other users of the city’s trails and parks. The group talked about having a group of five to seven members who represent various users, such as mountain bikers, runners and those who don’t have dogs.

Wilson urged those with comments to call the parks and recreation department at 879-4300.

— To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com