Dog owners disagree about proposed off-leash fine

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Dog owners could soon be facing a fine at El Paso County parks, if they’re not following the leash laws.

A proposed ordinance is in the works to hand out $50 fines to anyone letting their dogs run loose outside of designated off-leash areas. Members of the Parks Advisory Board unanimously endorsed the proposed fine during their meeting last night.

Local dog owners have mixed opinions.

“They’re addressing a problem that doesn’t really exist,” Chad Kuettner said.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Jessica Baltes said.

The proposed fine could put the Parks Board in the doghouse, but they say something needs to change.

“I don’t think that it’s an unreasonable approach because the ordinance is already in place that it’s not legal to have your dogs off leash,”  County Commissioner and Parks Advisory Board Liaison Sallie Clark said.

Even though it’s been against park rules, Clark said people still let them loose, and the dogs have been causing problems like chasing wildlife and fighting each other.

They said some of them were also harassing the weed-controlling goats at Bear Creek Park, forcing the goat’s owner to stop bringing them altogether.

“We really want to keep that going. It’s a great educational opportunity and an asset for our community, but the goat herder has pretty much said we may not come back,” Clark said. “So that’s kind of the risk that we take, and I think there’s an opportunity for us to work together as a community.”

But the dog owners are divided.

“I think that the fine will encourage people to take better care of the parks. It’s a multi-use parks so we want horses to be safe, hikers to be safe, bikers to be safe and most of all our dogs to be safe,” Baltes said.

“If we had a bunch of dog attack sightings on these trails from where dogs were attacking bikers, it would be a different story. But we don’t see that,” Kuettner said. “I don’t see it as being a sort of problem that would require that kind of reinforcement. It seems excessive.”

Commissioner Clark said right now there is no punishment for people who break the rules. She hopes the fine would make people think twice before unleashing their dogs.

“I think for reasoning of safety all around, it’s better to have something in place and to give our security folks the tools so that we don’t have to have the Police Department intervene in a case of something that might not be that serious,” Clark said.

The proposed $50 fine for off leash dogs will likely make its way to the County Commissioners to vote on in March. Commissioner Clark says they are looking for the community’s input.

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