Leash ’em up, please
Dear Editor:As one of two trail rangers with the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program, I was saddened to learn of the unfortunate incident occurring on the Hunter Creek Trail last Thursday (Aug. 4) where an unleashed dog jumped on another trail user and her dog.I wish I could say that conflicts such as this one, involving unleashed dogs, are a rarity on our trail system. I will say, however, that the leash laws in effect under Title 12 of the Pitkin County Code are, in fact, enforced on the Hunter Creek Trail, as well as the entire inventory of over 35 miles of trails maintained by the Pitkin County Open Space and Trails program. Additionally, I suggest that the responsibility for the outcomes of conflicts like this rests with the individual who chooses to disregard the leash law. Is the police department responsible every time someone exceeds the speed limit? No. Society holds each of us directly responsible for our actions.When I am patrolling a trail, the vast majority of my time is spent contacting trail users with unleashed dogs. Most of these conversations are positive and friendly which encourages my department to continue to support an approach to enforcement that emphasizes education over the issuance of tickets and fines. Perhaps it is time for us to reconsider this tactic.The issue of dog leashes is a sensitive and emotionally charged one here in the valley and throughout the West. The chronic offenders argue that leashes are cruel and dogs have the right to run free on and around the trails. I challenge these individuals to consider the measurable and observable impacts that unleashed dogs have upon wildlife and the trail community at large. On a daily basis while patrolling the trails, I see unleashed dogs chasing wildlife, trespassing onto private property, pooping in a place where the owner can ignore it, blocking oncoming cyclists, scuffling with other dogs, spooking horses and jumping on people. These specific examples cannot be written off as the unavoidable consequences of living in a dog-loving mountain town. Rather, they are the direct result of selfish individuals who feel that their right to recreate with their unleashed dogs on public trails supersedes the rights of other hikers, runners, cyclists and equestrians to enjoy the trails free from the negative and potentially dangerous effects of unleashed dogs.Regardless of where you stand on this issue, the bottom line is that in Pitkin County, it is against the law to have an unleashed dog in public. On trails and properties managed by my department, this carries a mandatory first-time offense fine of $100. We continue to believe that we can achieve our compliance goals by enforcing this law through education. I must admit that I am beginning to have doubts.I’ll see you out on the trails!Keith Berglund, ranger/naturalistPitkin County Open Space and Trails
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