Crap and punishment
May 25, 2012
ASPEN – It will be up to a Pitkin County judge to decide whether a woman should pay a $100 fine she received after failing to pick up her dog’s feces in a timely manner from Smuggler Mountain Road near Aspen.
A trial is set for June 2 in Pitkin County Court, pitting Open Space and Trails against Aspen resident Marion Lansburgh.
The official charge is that Lansburgh violated a provision of the Smuggler Mountain Management Plan requiring dog owners “to be able to control their dogs with a leash or voice control.” The canine in question, a 50-pound goldendoodle, was not on a leash when it pooped on the popular hiking road. The double transgression prompted county Open Space and Trails Ranger John Armstrong to issue a warning to Lansburgh for the feces and a $100 ticket for failing to have sight control of her dog.
Trials of this matter don’t happen often, said Armstrong, who summonsed Lansburgh on March 13, the date of the alleged offense.
“The trial is the last tool in our quiver, for sure,” he said. “It’s extremely rare, maybe once a year.”
But Lansburgh said Thursday that she feels a warning would have been enough. She said she walks her dog regularly and consistently obeys the rules of the road that goes up Smuggler as well as other trails.
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“It’s just the principle of the thing,” she said. “It’s not the $100. He should have given me a warning.”
Part of Lansburgh’s refusal to pay the ticket and be done with the issue, she said, is that her dog’s poop was indeed retrieved by her husband. As soon as Armstrong pointed out the poop to Lansburgh, her husband bagged it and threw it away, she said.
“(Armstrong) was just annoying and nasty about it, and he said he could take me to court, and I said, ‘We will,'” Lansburgh said, adding that her dog was in her sight the entire time.
Armstrong’s report of the incident says he saw Lansburgh standing at the bottom of Smuggler Mountain Road, talking on her cellphone. All the while, Armstrong said he noticed that her dog “was roaming around the area.”
“I watched the woman for approximately 4-5 minutes and noted that she never turned around to observe her dog,” Armstrong wrote. “I watched as her dog excreted just above the kiosk.”
Soon Armstrong made contact with Lansburgh, telling her about her dog’s rogue deposit.
“The woman agreed that she had not seen the dog excrete,” Armstrong wrote.
Initially Armstrong had planned to cite – not warn – Lansburgh about the poop.
“I told Lansburgh that our community does not tolerate people leaving dog feces on the trails and this is a zero-tolerance offense for Open Space and Trails,” he wrote.
But Thursday, Armstrong said he ended up giving her just one citation because “often times for a double offense” Open Space and Trails issues just one fine.
“I’m citing her for lack of sight control, which led to her not seeing the dog defecate and not picking it up in a due amount of time,” he explained, adding that “as a ranger I take my job seriously.”
Yet Lansburgh said that Armstrong took unnecessary steps to make a point.
“There was no damage on my part,” she said. “It was an oversight and we made good on it. I’ve lived here 27 years, and I don’t like seeing dog poop any more than he does.”
Pitkin County prosecutor Richard Nedlin will represent the Open Space and Trails in the bench trial. He declined to comment about the case.
Lansburgh said she was given the option to bring it to a jury but did not feel that was necessary. She said she won’t have a lawyer and her sole witness is her husband. Lansburgh’s evidence, she said, will be some photographs she took on her iPhone of unclaimed feces on the road, which she contends is indicative of inconsistent enforcement by Open Space rangers.
Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely will preside over the trial. Lansburgh said that on Tuesday when she appeared in court, Fernandez-Ely said she was willing to recuse herself from the trail since her husband is the county attorney. Lansburgh said she was not bothered by the potential conflict, and is fine with Fernandez-Ely ruling from the bench.
The Smuggler Mountain Management Plan states that “dog waste is still the responsibility of the owner and must be removed and placed in a waste receptacle. Under this program, owners need to be able to control their dogs either with a leash or voice control. Management will include strict enforcement … … resulting in fines.”