Aspen woman not guilty in trial over dog dung
June 1, 2012
ASPEN – Citing a lack of clarity regarding the dog-poop rules of Smuggler Mountain Road, a judge acquitted an Aspen woman Friday of charges that she failed to pick up her canine’s feces.
Following a 90-minute trial, Marion Lansburgh and her husband, Leonard, walked out of Pitkin County Court with no fine to pay and their mission accomplished: to demonstrate that the poop was picked up, and the ticket was not warranted.
The trial came after John Armstrong, Pitkin County open space and trails ranger, cited Lansburgh on March 13 near the bottom of Smuggler Road. There was some confusion as to what citations Lansburgh actually faced.
Initially Armstrong ticketed Lansburgh for not picking up the poop and failing to keep her goldendoodle within sight control, a requirement on Smuggler. But after Lansburgh’s husband picked up the dung, Armstrong later changed the ticket to show a warning for the poop and a summons for the sight-control infraction.
Armstrong testified Friday that he had erred with the paperwork, and Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely decided that Lansburgh would be tried for the poop offense.
With that matter settled, Armstrong said he has “zero tolerance” when it comes to people who don’t pick up their pet’s poop, and he believes that’s the sentiment of the community as well. He said he spotted Lansburgh chatting on her cellphone when her dog, which was off-leash, defecated. When Armstrong asked her about it she pleaded ignorance, the ranger testified.
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“I asked her if she had seen her dog poop, and she had not,” Armstrong said.
But Lansburgh then called out to her husband, who was not far behind, to remedy the problem. Armstrong said he had to show Leonard the location of the rogue poop, and the husband promptly bagged it.
“(Leonard) couldn’t find it until I showed it to him,” Armstrong said.
Even so, Marion Lansburgh testified that, because the poop had been retrieved, she did not see why she could be ticketed to the tune of $100.
“(Armstrong) is there to educate and let you know when you’ve done wrong,” she said. “I think in a very polite way he could have given me a warning.”
Fernandez-Ely said the poop rule contains some ambiguous language, so she could not find Lansburgh guilty.
“There’s the issue that, how could you violate (the rules) if you picked it up?” she said.
The statute, as it relates to poop, the judge noted, does not provide a stated time frame for when outlaw dung must be retrieved by the depositor’s owner or guardian.
“Because of the vagueness of the statute, and Mrs. Lansburgh’s husband picked it up, I’m going to find (her) not guilty,” Fernandez-Ely said.
Likewise, Armstrong said the code needs to be amended “so there’s no loophole.”
“We want people to have fun, we don’t want to be draconian,” he said. “But we don’t want people walking in a corridor of feces.”
He later added that “Mrs. Lansburgh is not a bad dog owner and not a negligent owner.”
Lansburgh and her husband also said they believe the local rangers do a good job, and Smuggler Mountain Road isn’t the dog-poop haven it used to be several years ago when there were no stringent rules or rangers.
“I really feel that the (rangers) have done a really good job on Smuggler,” she said. “It’s much better. It used to be a sewer up there.”
Prosecutor Richard Nedlin represented Armstrong in the trial, which lasted less than 90 minutes. Nedlin did not make opening or closing arguments in the trial.