Pitco: Leash up dogs on Smuggler | AspenTimes.com

Pitco: Leash up dogs on Smuggler

Jeremy Heiman

Pitkin County’s animal safety officer will begin enforcing the leash law on Smuggler Mountain this year.

While Pitkin County ordinances forbid dog owners from letting their animals run at large, the leash law has not been enforced on Smuggler in the past. But with dog owners, runners, hikers and mountain bikers all using Smuggler Mountain Road in increasing numbers, reports of conflicts are becoming more frequent.

Some of those complaints have come to the attention of ReRe Baker, the county’s animal safety director. In response, Baker asked county employees during the winter to post signs on Smuggler Mountain Road warning dog owners to keep their animals leashed.

For many dog owners, the popular mountain flanking Aspen to the northeast is one of the few places where they can let their dogs run for exercise. But, Baker said, safety is the priority.

“It’s gotten so congested over the last four years that it’s a public safety issue now,” Baker said. Complaints include conflicts between dogs and wildlife, unleashed dogs fighting with dogs on leashes and dogs getting into the path of bicyclists, causing them to crash and injure themselves. There have also been complaints about bicyclists riding down the road too fast and out of control, threatening the safety of pedestrians.

Realizing that old habits die hard, Baker said her first efforts will be toward educating dog owners and other users, rather than strict enforcement. She said when the weather turns nice, she will be on the road from time to time to inform dog owners about the rules, and eventually to enforce them.

“I’m not going to be issuing tickets right off the bat,” Baker said. “I’m not up there to issue tickets. I’m up there to educate. If we don’t have compliance, my last resort is to issue tickets.”

Some other basic rules also need to be observed, Baker said. People should stay on their own side of the road, with pedestrians facing traffic. Pedestrians have the right of way and bicyclists must obey the 25-mph speed limit for vehicles on Smuggler, she added.

The mountain, noted Baker, has been a wonderful place for locals to go for a quick workout. It still can be, if everyone shows consideration for others and observes some simple rules, she said.

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