Guest editorial: City’s dog friendliness needs saving |

Guest editorial: City’s dog friendliness needs saving

Shannon O'Neal, Park City,

Same as it ever was: A few bad players are causing problems for everyone. I refer of course to the greatest issue of our time: off-leash dogs in Park City.

Until we see scientific polling or a referendum on the issue it seems we should just weigh in publicly and with our governments. Mark me down in the "Free Bark City" column.

To be clear, I don’t care for mean dogs, mean people, inconsiderate owners or just inconsiderate humans, and poop left in public places by any of the above. I have great sympathy for victims of bad dog behavior and very little for irresponsible owners, but I doubt the concerns of some about the loose-dog menace actually reflect the majority view of the community. The police blotter and letters to the editor depict a community of reckless owners and their vicious dogs. My experience is otherwise.

I am no scofflaw. I know code requires dogs to be under control when off their property. I also know two canine ambassadors, George and Boomer, were the first to welcome us when we moved here in 2000. They wandered in wagging and smiling as we unpacked. Dogs are part of Park City lore. There are children’s books on the topic. Our pharmacy has scores of dog portraits at the pick-up window. There are almost as many clinics for our pets as for humans. Free-running dogs are, what, 1/3 of the public art on our bus shelters? Everyone should acknowledge this is historically a very dog-friendly town.

Park City still offers a fun and fairly funky mix of the outdoors, small(ish)-town life, and big-town amenities. That dog-friendly lifestyle is part of it. Let’s save what’s left.

The current ordinance allows dogs to be free as long as you carry a leash and the dog wears an electronic collar. HOAs, municipalities, and the county can designate areas as "off-leash." Some creative problem solving, consensus building, and realignment of the rules to fit reality and community norms would go a long way toward an equitable solution. I suggest:

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– All people must behave responsibly – whether they have a dog or not.

– Dog parks are nice, but forcing people into cars unnecessarily is hypocritical in a town trying to reduce emissions and traffic. Dog parks do not seem to fill the need.

– Designate more off-leash and other absolutely dog-free recreation areas. Make their size, features, and location reflect the relative support of the community. Lots of support? Big areas. Little support? Be thankful for what you have.

– Explore amending the county ordinance to allow designated "off-leash" days in some designated areas.

– Hold truly irresponsible owners accountable.

– Be neighborly. When mixing people, dogs, bikes, and animals please be kind and considerate. Wave. Slow down. Pull over. Get off the trail for a moment. Say "Hi." Reward good behavior with gratitude and a smile.

Like Mr. King said: "Can we all get along?"