A new era for walking the dog on Aspen’s Smuggler Mountain
ASPEN Of all the contact points between citizens and their governments, including Aspen City Hall and the Pitkin County Courthouse, the effort to enforce dog-related regulations may generate the most friction.Animal control officers, speaking privately, will attest to numerous incidents in which dog owners have insisted that their dog, regardless of the behavior of other canines, is the perfect pet. Their pets do no wrong and the owners do not deserve punishment for their pooches bad behavior, such as pooping on the road or trail, or jumping up on the legs of every human it encounters.In an effort to avoid such conflicts on Smuggler Mountain Road, the access route to the recently acquired 250-acre Smuggler Mountain Open Space parcel, the Aspen and Pitkin County Open Space rangers have embarked on a campaign to alert the community about new regulations governing the use of the area.And the primary issue they want to talk about is dogs, the messes they can make, and the requirements that people control the dogs and clean up after them.The poop problem is not tolerable, said Pitkin County Open Space & Trails Ranger John Armstrong. The citizens have spoken, and they are disgusted.Although dogs have been walking up Smuggler Mountain Road for many, many decades with their owners, Armstrong noted that very few of those dogs and walkers used a leash.Its always been treated as an off-leash area, and its never been legal, he said.But under the new management plan, for the first time, dogs can now legally walk up the road beside their masters and not be leashed. Pitkin County adopted the 47-page management plan for the tract, including the road, earlier this year.The only requirement regarding off-leash dogs is that the dog must be responsive to voice control, and that the dog remain within sight of its human at all times. And, Armstrong said, since a dog is not within its owners visual perception when it is allowed to follow behind, that means the dog is technically in violation of the regulations if it does so.If the dog cannot demonstrably obey verbal commands, or gets out of sight, the human responsible is liable to get a ticket that carries a $100 fine for the first offense, a $500 fine for the second offense, and a $1,000 penalty for third and subsequent offenses.Also included in the regulations are a prohibition against any person having more than two off-leash dogs with them at any time, and a requirement that dog guardians carry doggie waste bags and use them immediately. And the bags cannot be left along the trail for any duration.Armstrong also cautioned canine owners against driving with their dogs to the base of the mountain and then letting the dog out to run free while the human dons walking shoes and other gear.The last one out of the vehicle needs to be the dog, he said, noting that the practice of letting Fido out on his own for a few minutes has meant that the bottom part of the trail is covered in poop by the end of the prime dog-walking seasons of summer and fall.The regulations have been in effect more than a month, and temporary signs have been posted to inform users of the new regime. There have been indications that people are taking heed of the changes.Its already looking cleaner this year than it was last year, said Aspens ranger, Brian Long.The document is available for public inspection on the countys website, http://www.aspenpitkin.org, and the dog-leash law section is number 4.3.5, starting on page 24 of the online email@example.com
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