Aspen city council OKs new problem dog law |

Aspen city council OKs new problem dog law

The Aspen City Council preliminarily approved a new city law Monday that will allow police officers some middle ground in dealing with problem dogs.

Aspen police asked for the “harassing dog” ordinance, which is based on a similar law in effect in Pitkin County, because the only two options currently on the books do not hold most dog owners accountable for “troublesome behavior,” according to a memo written by Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn.

The two options currently available to officers dealing with problem dogs are to ticket the owner for keeping a “vicious dog,” which comes with a mandatory Municipal Court appearance, or give a warning for having a vicious dog, according to Linn’s memo.

“This (warning) has its applications, but often fails to hold the dog owner accountable for the animal’s troublesome behavior,” Linn wrote in the memo.

In addition, ticketing people for having a vicious dog or handing out a warning for the same thing “creates resistance” from the dog owners when it doesn’t quite fit the problem behavior, Linn said Monday at the council meeting.

Ginna Gordon, a community resource officer, told council members that just 20 percent of the department’s calls about dog behavior result in vicious-dog tickets. Seventy-five percent of those calls could have resulted in tickets for harassing dogs, which includes dogs that jump up on or nip at people, she said.

The department received 24 calls about animal bites in 2016, though just five resulted in vicious-dog tickets, according to the memo.

The harassing dog violation would include a $50 fine for the first offense and a $100 fine for the second offense. A third offense would require a mandatory court appearance.

The law will be officially adopted at the next council meeting, when it will be presented for public comment. Councilor members passed it unanimously Monday.

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