Leash-law debate continues as Animal Control steps up enforcement
Even as the temperatures have dropped, the conversations about Summit County’s leash laws have continued to heat up.
A recent increase in the enforcement of the leash laws has sparked complaints from residents who disagree with the approach. The Summit County Council was recently approached by citizens during a public comment session.
The County Council broached the topic Wednesday with Clay Coleman, Summit County Animal Control administrator, and Summit County Human Resources Director Brian Bellamy, who previously served in the position.
County Council members appeared unclear about the current level of enforcement after fielding several complaints about the issue, particularly pertaining to trails and trailheads in Round Valley. Trail users are often seen with off-leash dogs in Round Valley, where City Hall owns large tracks of land.
"The rumors are that you have stepped up enforcement to target Round Valley and two different things are being said: enforcement at trailheads and on the trails has been increased," Claudia McMullin, Summit County Council member, said during the meeting.
Leash laws have long been a divisive issue among residents in Park City and Summit County. The responsibility of leash-law enforcement falls on Summit County Animal Control, but can be enforced by any law enforcement officer. Animal Control has not had the personnel to police the issue in the past, but two new officers were hired in 2015, Coleman said.
"We have one officer that is walking the trails twice a week and Park City has police officers at the trailheads," Coleman said. "We are doing our job and they are doing their job and we are meeting in the middle quite a bit, but we are not combining efforts.
"I don’t want everyone to get the idea that we are out there together on this and that we are trying to force the hammer down," he said. "We are doing our best to step up the efforts to get the dogs running at large more under control and I think PCPD is trying to do the same thing."
According to Summit County Animal laws, dogs must be under restraint at all times in public, which may include electronic collars, unless in an approved off-leash area. In such cases, the dog must still be under voice and sight control.
The fine for the first off-leash offense is $100, $150 for the second, and $200 for the third. If a dog is not sterilized, the fees double. Each additional occurrence after the third offense tacks on an additional $100 to the fine.
The fine for a dog attacking a person or an animal is $500. If the injury requires medical care, the owner would be required to pay restitution. Repeat offenders also have the potential of being declared vicious and can be removed from the home.
Last year, a leash law task force was created and received the County Council’s approval to establish the laws and off-leash areas, such as the Run-A-Muk Trail near Utah Olympic Parkway.
"We dealt with this issue through subcommittee for more than a year. Our law is our law and other parties can choose to do that which they choose to do with their property, but we did our job," McMullin said. "If you want a dog park in Round Valley, talk to Park City. If you want a dog park in the Basin, go to the Basin Recreation District."
Kim Carson, County Council chair and former member of the task force, said it is the County Council’s intent to have the trails and parks monitored more closely.
"That’s where we find the biggest altercations and safety issues so we appreciate your efforts," Carson said.
Carson said she has been invited, along with Bellamy, to attend an upcoming work session with Park City leaders to further discuss the efforts of both entities. Park City officials recently chewed on the idea of creating another dog park, potentially in Round Valley.
"We have worked well with Park City on this in the past and have had good dialogue," Carson said. "We expect we will be working closely with them on this."
Tom Fisher, Summit County manager, said the County Council "feels very strongly about this."
"They went through a year-long process with citizens, Park City and other interested parties to come to the ordinance that was adopted and then to react from a budgetary standpoint to increase the animal service staff to enhance the services that we provide," Fisher said. "I think they feel they have done a lot of work on that, but we are only one year into this. We are going to need some more time in order to make a real judgment whether our efforts are working or whether things need to change.
"Council and staff have heard from those that don’t agree with the laws and we are hearing from those that do agree. There is an active conversation in the community that I think needs to be acknowledged, there is just not agreement and therefore it makes it difficult to govern."
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Councilor Glenn Wright estimated that the ability to provide renewable energy sources for county power will cost the average Summit County resident $0.70 per year above current costs.