Cattle-chasing canines spoiling dog party in Carbondale |

Cattle-chasing canines spoiling dog party in Carbondale

Valley Journal fileMimi Liebmann of Carbondale chucks a ball for her dog, Jaden, at the Delaney property last winter. Recently a neighboring rancher has been complaining about dogs chasing his cattle, which may cause the town of Carbondale to rethink its off-leash policy at the park.

CARBONDALE, Colorado ” It’s the start of calving season, and the last thing rancher Marty Nieslanik needs to worry about is loose dogs chasing and stressing out his pregnant cows.

But at least four times in the last few days Nieslanik said he’s had to shoo dogs out of his cow pasture back into the adjacent Carbondale Nature Park, where the town allows dog owners to run their pets off leash.

“I don’t want to be the bad guy to ruin it for everyone, but I’ve got to protect my livestock,” Nieslanik said. “And once there’s a couple hundred calves out there, it’s going to be real enticing for the dogs.

“It doesn’t take much to slap a leash on your dog when they get to that side of the park, that’s all I’m asking,” he said.

Dog owners have been forewarned that any more incidents could bring an end to the town’s leniency on dogs running off leash at what’s become a de facto dog park since the town acquired the 33-acre parcel, also referred to as the Delaney property, several years ago.

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A sign went up at the park located on the town’s northeast side Monday advising people to be in control of their dogs, or the town may begin enforcing the leash law.

“This is a critical season for ranchers, and the cows can’t be put under stress,” Carbondale Public Works Director Larry Ballenger said.

He said the matter will likely come up for discussion at Tuesday night’s Town Council meeting.

“I would hope if dog owners know their dogs are susceptible to chasing cows, that they will stay away from there,” he said.

Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling said dog owners need to be aware of something else.

“Ranchers are allowed under Colorado law to shoot dogs if they’re chasing cows on private property. And that can lead to larger issues,” he said.

Town officials also reminded dog owners that they were given the benefit of the doubt when the off-leash policy was reviewed last year.

“Dog owners came to Town Council en masse this time last year to praise the use of the Delaney property for an off-leash dog park,” stated a town press release issued Monday. “While it has been extremely popular with numerous dog owners, there are others who feel it is not appropriate to mix off-leash dogs with cattle grazing and natural wetland settings.”

After the town acquired the property, a 2002 Carbondale Recreation Survey determined that the most appropriate use would be “passive recreation in a natural environment,” but the question of off-leash dog activities was not addressed. A master plan called for development of a nature park with wetland features and trails. The park has not been developed due to lack of funding.

“The long-term fix if it’s to continue as a dog park would be to build some substantial fences around the perimeter to contain the dogs,” Ballenger said.

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