Off-leash educational efforts continue
May 22, 2015
There are people in this community "who will want every dog on a leash and off of every trail, but there are also people who want every dog off-leash and on every trail," Brian Bellamy, Summit County Animal Control Director, said.
"So we have to figure out how to best serve both sides of that," he said in an interview with The Park Record.
Animal Control receives approximately 35 calls a week regarding off-leash incidents, Bellamy said, adding that there are also three to five dog bites a week reported. Last week five dog bites were reported and The Park Record previously reported a man was bitten while on the Rail Trail on May 12.
The Park Record also receives numerous Letters to the Editor each week with residents arguing from each side of the issue.
But despite the increasing dog/human encounters, Bellamy said action is being taken by Animal Control and law enforcement officials to educate the public about the county’s leash laws in the hopes of reducing confrontations.
"We’re handing out our brochures and we’re handing out leashes," Bellamy said. "We’re doing it in multiple ways and we are trying to help educate the public.
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"Don’t think there is just one way to solve this problem," he said. "We really need multiple approaches. It’s not just a one-size fits all."
Local law enforcement officials have been handing out educational brochures and leashes alongside Animal Control staff at popular trails and parks. This past Monday they handed them out along the Rail Trail and at City Park.
Frank Smith, the Summit County Sheriff’s Office chief deputy, said the Sheriff’s Office just wants to ensure the public is safe.
"It’s more of a public safety issue," Smith said. "We live in Park City and people love their animals. But the reality is you have to be courteous to the people who are afraid of dogs and want them under control."
The responsibility for enforcement of leash-laws falls on the Animal Control department, which has lacked the funding to employ additional officers, but last year the Summit County Council allocated money to allow for the hiring of three additional positions, including an officer, shelter attendant, and director.
Bellamy said a new officer has been hired and is completing her first month in the field. She brings the total number of officers to four, in addition to a field supervisor. The other two positions still need to be filled.
"The Council was good enough to give us additional funding for these things and we are starting to see some fruits of that," Bellamy said. "We’re just trying to get back to those numbers prior to the recession."
Anywhere from two to four officers are typically on duty responding to calls, which are increasingly about off-leash encounters and dog bites. The incidents occur regularly on popular trails and in public parks, even though Summit County has two approved off-leash dog parks and one off-leash dog trail.
"If residents want their animals to be off leash, then take them to an off-leash park," Bellamy said. "At the same time, if you don’t like animals don’t go to the Run-A-Muk Trail."
Bellamy emphasized the effectiveness of residents just being respectful of one another. Animal Control will continue to hand out leashes and citations with the help of law enforcement officials, but residents need to do their parts too, he said.
"We are going to keep doing these and just trying to help educate people through brochures and citations. We’ll keep doing that. We have a lot of great community partners in this," he said. "But please, come in compliance with the law and that will go a long way."
To view the Animal Control Ordinances and Laws go to http://sterlingcodifiers.com/codebook/index.php?book_id=522&chapter_id=30016.