With summer, dog days return | ParkRecord.com

With summer, dog days return

Charlie Sturgis remembers the date and time when his left collarbone was broken in two places and his right thumb was shattered in five spots: 10 a.m. on July 27, 2005.

He was riding his bike along a U.S. 40 frontage road, a pastime of one of Park City’s best-known outdoorsmen and the manager at White Pine Touring.

Out of nowhere, as Sturgis recounts, a big dog, perhaps a lab-collie mix weighing 70 pounds, came after him, squarely hitting his bicycle at a 90-degree angle, right between the wheels. Sturgis crashed, causing the broken bones, he says, remembering that the dog, "hit me like a pro."

Afterward, Sturgis says, there was little interest from Summit County Animal Control, the agency that has jurisdiction in Park City and the surrounding county.

"I think Animal Control should do its job of pursuing formal complaints more diligently," he says. "They did nothing on mine."

The 2005 incident, though more dramatic than most encounters, underscores what has seemingly become an annual dispute, especially in Park City, about loose dogs.

Each year, as summer arrives and trails dry from the melting snow, Parkites flock outdoors with their dogs, turning Park City into ‘Bark City,’ as some call the community. Leashless dogs are seen in lots of neighborhoods on the West Side of Summit County, with Old Town being notorious for its population of roaming, rummaging canines.

The dispute about the loose dogs seems to be largely the same each year. Some worry that the leashless dogs are a threat, especially to small children, and say it’s not fair that dogs roam freely. But lots of owners see Park City as a dog-friendly town where canines are not getting into trouble even when they are off their leashes.

"I think it’s one of those issues in this community that has folks on both sides of the fence," Police Chief Lloyd Evans acknowledges.

As summer 2006 starts, the authorities are attempting, again, to curb the number of dogs running free. The Park City Police Department and Animal Control, a department of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, are enforcing leash laws.

Evans says that the city and the Sheriff’s Office have agreed that an Animal Control officer would be stationed in Park City each morning, a maximum of 40 hours per week, and he maintains that the Sheriff’s Office is the agency that primarily handles loose dogs.

But he also says that Park City police officers will intervene. He says that officers normally warn someone if they are found with a dog off a leash and they may give the person a free leash.

If an officer finds the person with a dog off a leash a second time, Evans says, they might be ticketed for violating the city’s leash laws.

"We want to be doing those things that make the public feel safe," Evans says. "Some of them don’t feel safe with loose dogs."

He says that the Police Department receives the most complaints about loose dogs at City Park, Prospector Park and on trails, noting that, a few years ago, the city installed a fence around the City Park playground, in part to keep dogs out.

Animal Control and the Police Department have published a flier describing laws regulating dogs in the county, which says the two agencies are, "working in partnership to protect your pet, our community, and non-pet owners from becoming victims of an unfortunate event."

The flier describes that people with dogs more than four months old must get licenses for their pets, costing $18 per year for a dog that has not been spayed or neutered and $6 each year for those that have. It says that people must use leashes and that, "neighbors need not accept your pet on their property."

The flier covers other topics like noise problems involving animals, bites and dangerous animals.

According to the flier, people caught violating leash laws and other rules regulating dogs could be fined.

Some of the fines are:

(Allowing a dog to run at large, $25 for a first offense, $50 for a second time and $75 for a third.

(Having an animal deemed a nuisance, $25.

(Allowing a dog to attack or chase, $300.

(Having a fierce or vicious animal, $300

(Cruelty to animals, $300.

Bob Bates, the coordinator of Animal Control, says people generally follow the rules if they are aware of them. If they ignore them, though, Animal Control warns people and writes tickets, he says.

"We’re going to try to work toward hitting the trailheads," he says about where to expect Animal Control crews.

He claims that Animal Control recently has seen an influx of loose pit bulls in Jeremy Ranch.

"Anytime we have a dog that’s known to be a little on the aggressive side, we’re concerned," he says.

Sturgis, the victim of a dog attack, says his wife, Kathy, was once walking their dog at McLeod Creek when a leashless dog attacked their pet. He claims that Animal Control’s response was poor.

Sturgis, who says his trained chocolate Labrador and terrier are never put on leashes, talks about options like creating dog-free trails or allowing dogs on certain trails every other day. He also says that a leash-free spot for dogs should be explored, perhaps on open land near the McPolin Farm.

"It would give them a place they could let their dogs run around," he says.

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