Guest editorial: Where dogs don’t run free
I had my second run-in this morning with a police officer or animal control officer over the past three months while walking my dogs at the Meadows Drive trailhead. I was told by the animal control officer the only areas in the county where a dog may be off-leash is on your own property or at a dog park. I was also told officers will begin actually hiking the trails through Round Valley shortly, not just the trailheads, giving very expensive citations to people with dogs off-leash. The rationale given for this massive increase in enforcement is that "it’s the law and there have been a number of dog attacks."
So as of now the Summit County Council is basically making it illegal to bike or run with your dog (try biking or running single-track with two dogs on leashes) in Round Valley or any other open spaces in Summit County even though this activity has been going on for as long as I have been a resident (17 years). You have just made a significant negative impact on the ability of the majority of the population to enjoy the open space we have all been paying for. This is concerning given that Round Valley is typically a very low-use area.
At some point, common sense has to come into play. Having a captain on the Park City Police force camped out at the trailheads for hours this summer giving citations and warnings is a poor use of resources. Having police or animal control officers hiking through round valley giving out tickets is nonsensical and again, a poor use of resources. If public health is the driving factor, maybe we should post officers on the ski hills and mountain bike trails giving citations for skiing or biking over 15 mph as I’m quite sure the "bang for the buck" in terms of preventing injuries would be far greater than enforcing leash laws in low-use areas.
I am sympathetic to the problem of dog bites, and poor dog owners should absolutely be held accountable for the actions of their dogs, but punishing and greatly degrading the quality of life in Park City for the vast majority of dog owners because of the actions of a small minority is not the way to handle this situation. I also believe that a small but vocal minority of individuals are pushing this agenda because at least 80 percent of the people enjoying Round Valley that I see basis are doing it with dogs and 90 percent of those dogs are off-leash.
Since I am annoyed as much as anyone by individuals who complain and don’t offer any potential solutions, here is an idea:
In high-use areas such as City Park, Main Street and the Rail Trail, dogs must always be on leash. In low-use areas such as Round Valley, dogs must be on leash within 200 yards of the trailhead and all dogs with any aggressive tendencies must always be on a leash. In low-use areas when there is some kind of event going on such as a race, dogs must be on leash.
We need to come up with a compromise solution. I strongly believe that this new, massive enforcement effort is only going to cause more problems than it solves and that punishing the great majority of people for the actions of a few is extraordinarily unfair and will only discourage a large percentage of people from enjoying the open space that makes Park City/Summit County unique.
If you are a responsible dog owner in this county, I strongly encourage you to call, write or email the Summit County Council with your concerns. If we are silent, we are pretty much guaranteeing that we will lose the ability to responsibly enjoy one of the characteristics that makes Park City such an interesting place to live.
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Did you enjoy the Historic Home Tour last weekend? Park City Museum Executive Director Sandra Morrison says there are a number of people and organizations in the community to thank.