Ever heard of leash law?
June 5, 2002
Good for the town of Basalt trying, in a subtle way, to educate people about their dogs. A losing battle, I’m afraid, at least by being nice, as attested to by the following story.In the summer of 2000, I became very frustrated by the sheer number of dogs on the bike and walking trails, none of them on a leash, despite signs warning that leash laws are “… strictly enforced.” This was in May of 2000, and I decided on my own to start a program that could possibly generate more people using leashes on their dogs. I went to the bank and got $100, all in $5 bills. I figured I would congratulate each person walking a leashed dog, and give them $5. I thought maybe the word would get out, and a few more people might begin using leashes. I travel from my place in Basalt to Woody Creek or Aspen at least three days a week on my bicycle, using the bike trail that goes through Holland Hills and follows the old D&RGW right-of-way, which is still owned by a group with mostly initials in its name. You would think I might see a dog or two on a leash. In June, I traded all of the $5 bills in and got a hundred bucks in $10 bills, thinking I might still be able to give away some money. I saw a lot of hikers and walkers, and a lot of dogs, but not one dog on a leash. A lot of people thought they had their dogs under “voice command,” as evidenced by the fact that upon seeing me, or another biker, they would yell vociferously at their dogs (sometimes with success), and then, like an ice climber who has just lost his grip and is trying to keep from falling back down the path just covered, claw wildly at their dogs, trying to get them under some sort of physical control. Humorous at best, sad at worst. On two occasions, I saw dogs chasing deer, and on many more occasions, saw the dogs chasing squirrels, field mice and chipmunks, and any other wildlife they might have found entertaining, including snakes. The owners seemed oblivious to the damage their cherished pets were causing, and a friendly word about a “forgotten” leash was met with hostility. Anyway, to carry this story further towards its conclusion, I ended up carrying a $100 bill around in September. Up around Snowmass Canyon, I thought I had finally found a winner when I spied a woman coming toward me with a dog in tow, on a leash. I started getting a bit excited, thinking she would be astounded to have a complete stranger hand her $100 for doing something all dog owners should do as a matter of course. But alas, just as my heart began beating a little faster, her other dog (not on a leash) came running up to her, with a squirming little squirrel in its mouth. I thought about tearing the bill in grade-school half, giving her the short half, or maybe just a corner, with an admonishment, but figured that even as proud as she was for having one dog on a leash, she wasn’t up to taking a tirade from me.I never gave away the $100, or any portion of it, and not because I didn’t want to. On a more positive side, though, the next spring I noticed a lot of dogs on leashes, and I wondered what had caused this change in attitude. This was all about the same time Cleve Williams shot a dog for harassing his ducks, and shot another one multiple times without killing it for the same offense.We are now well into the summer of 2002, and had I chose to carry it again, my $100 would remain unused in my backpack. Sadly, the only conclusion here is that most dog owners do not care about the safety of their dogs, or the wildlife out there, or other people’s property, unless someone is willing, in a forceful way, to make believers out of them. So, until then, Basalt, good luck.Very truly yours,Tony VagneurBasalt