Animal Control left to Park City law enforcement
January 26, 2016
Summit County will leave initial animal control enforcement within the Park City limits to the Park City Police Department and only respond if asked by them to step in.
Last week, County Attorney Robert Hilder met with the Summit County Council to examine the Animal Control ordinances within each jurisdiction and provide some legal direction on how Animal Control should approach enforcement, especially in Round Valley. With the city’s recent designation of 1,400 acres of Round Valley as an off-leash area, county officials were left wondering how it would impact the land under its jurisdiction.
According to a long-standing agreement between the city and the county, Animal Control officers are only supposed to enforce the city’s ordinances upon request. However, Hilder said, over the years an officer has been assigned to patrol within the city limits.
County officials say that will no longer be the practice and its Animal Control officers will respond on an as-needed basis. Park City law officers will be responsible for enforcement, according to officials.
"We made an agreement and we are very supportive of the agreement so we will no longer have someone assigned to patrol Round Valley or Park City," Hilder said. "We are putting the policing back on the city. But if anything happens or if someone is injured, we should be called.
"Without that we don’t have a role," Hilder said.
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The new Round Valley leash ordinance went into effect Jan. 8. Most of it falls within the city’s limits, including the portion that was designated as off-leash. However, small parcels are within the county’s jurisdiction.
Park City Police Chief Wade Carpenter said while his officers are not equipped to pick up animals, they will continue to support Animal Control’s efforts and will be available to respond to those complaints in whatever capacity the city deems necessary.
"Our primary function is not animal control, it is the health, safety and welfare of the community. We have plenty of other things going on and to worry about," Carpenter said. "But we will continue to support them."
Carpenter said he has not had an opportunity to meet with county officials since their discussion last week, adding that there may be some miscommunication at this point about everyone’s role moving forward.
When the city designated it as off-leash, it prompted county officials to take a closer look at the discrepancies between each entities’ ordinances.
The county and the city have historically enacted their own ordinances within their jurisdictions and the county has provided resources for enforcement. However, the ordinances contain several ambiguities, Hilder said.
"We don’t define what an off-leash area is and we don’t differentiate between open spaces and fenced in areas," Hilder said. "But until we had this discussion I don’t think we recognized things that are ambiguous. It’s not creating an issue, but we are recognizing that there are some gaps that we need to fill."
While both jurisdictions regulate conduct for off-leash areas, neither contains information beyond it, according to a memo Hilder sent to council members.
"The county attorney’s suggestion is that as a minimal first step, agreed descriptions and definitions be enacted by all involved entities," the memo stated. "We suggest at least a distinction between dog parks, such as Quinn’s, Willow Creek and, on a larger scale, Run-a-Muck and open areas."
Clay Coleman, Animal Control administrator, said moving forward he will be telling his officers to "take a step back" to make sure that he is "not overstepping his bounds." Coleman was hired in November.
"We will treat that area as off-leash unless we have a phone call asking me to come in and investigate it," Coleman said. "We will not have any officers walking the trail or anything like that. I’m respecting the MOU (memorandum of understanding) and if Park City calls me and says, ‘we need your help,’ we will come running. Otherwise it is basically in Park City’s hands."
Since Jan. 8, Coleman said he has received several complaints about "dogs and dog waste everywhere" in Round Valley, adding that there has been one verifiable dog bite and rumors of several others.
"We just have to take it with a grain of salt," Coleman said. "But we will let the dust settle and we are going to readjust to this. I’ve asked my officers to just push education over punishment when they are called or see something."
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