Dogs think they don’t need no stinking leashes; Basalt officials think otherwise | VailDaily.com

Dogs think they don’t need no stinking leashes; Basalt officials think otherwise

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Lorraine Ohanesian walks her dog Ellie along the Roaring Fork river in basalt Wednesday.
Jeremy Wallace/The Aspen Times

BASALT — The town will still be going to the dogs, but they would have to stay on leashes more often and in more places, according to a policy change being contemplated.

The Town Council on Tuesday endorsed a staff suggestion to designate certain areas as off-leash and enforce an existing leash law everywhere else.

“The town right now has a leash law. It’s just not strictly enforced,” Town Manager Ryan Mahoney told the council.

Dog bites of humans and dog attacks of other dogs are growing enough in numbers that a change in policy is needed, the staff recommended.

The Basalt Police Department answered 357 dog-related calls from June 30, 2016 to March 21, 2019. There were 27 dog bites, with the canines off leash in 21 cases and on leash six times. There were another 20 dog attacks on people and seven attacks of dogs by dogs. The rest of the cases were dog at-large.

“One idea that staff has discussed would be to designate certain areas in town where people can remove the leash to be able to run the dog or play fetch,” said a memo from Mahoney to the council. “We would not create a dog park per se, but it would be an area where the leash law was not strictly enforced.”

The areas where dogs could continue to be off leash were identified as “the large field” at Arbaney Park, Southside Park and western portion of the Linear Park in Willits. Other areas may also be designated as the town moves closer to implementing the rules.

“This is a starting point,” Mahoney said.

Lions Park, home of the Basalt chamber’s little red caboose and Town Hall, wasn’t identified as an off-leash area. During the council discussion, a woman played fetch with her off-leash dog in a highly visible spot outside the council meeting room. The irony didn’t escape Councilwoman Jennifer Riffle.

Audience member Ellen Weinstein of Willits said she is a dog lover and owner who supports the leash law enforcement even though she suspects it is an unpopular position. She keeps her dog on a leash but continually must deal with roaming dogs getting in her dog’s face, she said. Many dog attacks on people or other dogs don’t get reported, she said.

The entire Linear Park at Willits is routinely used to let dogs off leash, she said. Some parents get distracted while their kids are at the playground and let their dogs roam, Weinstein said.

The council directed its staff to come back with the proper procedure for codifying the leash law and enforcing it. The meeting will be noticed in advance so people can weigh in.

Once implemented, the police department will ease into enforcement, Mahoney said. The fine for dog off leash will increase as the number of infractions rises. No specific time was set for implementing the new policy.

scondon@aspentimes.com