Guest Editorial, March 24-27, 2012 | ParkRecord.com

Guest Editorial, March 24-27, 2012

Charlie Wagner, Park City

I want to thank ZB Sports, Wendy and her husband for hosting the dog-leash meeting last week.

I can’t help feeling that some of the people in attendance and some of the speakers just wanted to put a Band-Aid on the problem and hope it goes away. It became apparent that the leash law has been ignored for too long when, five minutes before that meeting, an unleashed dog ran by the store where the meeting was held and no one said a word. Throughout the duration of the meeting, many dogs went by on the walkway off leash.

Educating the public as discussed in the meeting is a good start, but I also think law enforcement needs to be accountable, as there were three different officers present throughout the meeting as dogs went by off leash.

In this week’s letter to the editor, a proposal was made to allow certain dogs to run off leash if they have "shock collars" and different licensing for "better behaved" dogs to run free. The comparison was made to a driver’s license and the knowledge and training of that driver. I respectfully disagree that you can compare an animal with a driver’s license. Three of the examples of dog bites in Park City given in the meeting last week represented "good dogs" that had shock collars. They didn’t work. The owners were unable to control the dog and innocent people were injured. Even the best-behaved or trained dogs can have a toothache or have a day when they have a harder time obeying commands.

Much of what was discussed in the meeting involved the use of the trails that Park City and Summit County are famous for. Unfortunately, that is not the only place that people fail to obey the leash law. Parking lots, residential areas, parks and walkways also seem to have the same problem. I feel the fines for breaking the law should be stiffer.

We learned in the meeting that your animal pursuing a wild hoofed animal could bring a fine to you as a dog owner of up to $8,000. We also learned that if your dog bites a human being, it is only a $450 fine, though you could face more penalties through legal action brought against you. I recommend that the fines for warnings and bites be increased to become a real deterrent to breaking the leash law that is already in effect.

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People argue that their dogs need more exercise than a dog park can offer. There are a few other options to this: a dog park that is larger in area, fenced, and has a trail around the park for the owners to enjoy walking, running or biking, etc. Or perhaps designating a specific trail to dog use, and anyone using that one particular trail understands dogs will be off leash in that one allowed area.

We should take an example from the dog park in Taylorsville. It is a large park with a walking path around the park inside the fenced area where the dogs run. This could be implemented on a larger scale here in the Park City area to give those who enjoy our outdoor spaces the room they need to move.

The last thing I wanted to bring up that was expressed in the meeting is the behavior attributed to those people who want dogs leashed and people who don’t. As we all learned in kindergarten, there is never a reason to behave badly to each other. While we may have differing opinions, this environment of rude behavior when someone disagrees with us needs to stop. There is no cause for rude language, disparaging remarks or disdain because someone disagrees with you.

What’s the simple solution? Put your dogs on a leash. Mine are, and it is the law!