Leash: It’s the law. Most places in Eagle County require you to keep your dog under control | VailDaily.com

Leash: It’s the law. Most places in Eagle County require you to keep your dog under control

Stephens Park in West Vail has an off-leash area for dogs. Each town and Eagle County has slightly different requirements, but they all require one basic thing: Your dog has to be under control, either on a leash or under voice command, said Nathan Lehnert, the county’s animal services field manager.

EAGLE — Off-leash dogs cost local law enforcement hundreds of thousands of dollars and thousands of hours, time they could be spending doing actual law enforcement.

In Avon, for example, police officers in 2016 responded to calls about off-leash dogs 1,150 times — mostly in Nottingham Park. They issued 151 warnings and 13 summons that year.

Each town and Eagle County have slightly different requirements, but they all require one basic thing: Your dog has to be under control, either on a leash or under voice command, said Nathan Lehnert, the county's animal services field manager.

"We understand that people need to exercise their animals. We give a lot of leeway in appropriate places," Lehnert said.

Freedom Park has an off-leash area. You need to be in that spot. If you're not in that spot, you are required to keep Spot on a leash, under the county's regs.

If you're on walking paths or recreation paths around the county and towns, your dog needs to be on a leash. That's also almost always true in hiking areas on Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service trails, Lehnert said.

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They like to be nice about it and try to educate you first with a word to the wise. That will generally be followed by a written warning, Lehnert said.

After that, it's all about the Benjamins.

First offense $40, second is $100, and third is $250.

Also, not everyone loves your dog.

"People have the right not to be approached by your dog. Some people are afraid of dogs," Lehnert said. "Having that dog on leash helps them know how much leeway to give."

Feces happens

Take a stroll down a walking path in any neighborhood, and you'll soon happen upon one of those wooden racks that provide free plastic bags to pick up after your dog.

Now, look at the bottom of that wooden rack on the ground, where people let their dogs relieve themselves at the base of the rack, and did not pick it up.

"Like all enforcement, we rely on witnesses. If there is a way to follow and get in touch with that person, we're happy to do that," Lehnert said.

To discourage chronic complainers, Eagle County's animal services usually requires citizen incident reports before officers take action. The reports are public record, so you can easily learn who's complaining about you.

Toughest fines in Gypsum

Gypsum takes the county's most aggressive stance and has for more than a decade. Get caught with your dog off-leash and you'll pay:

• $100, first offense.

• $150, second offense.

• $250, third offense.

• $300 is top charge, or you go to court, where you'll also pay $35 in court costs and have a word with Municipal Judge Terry Quinn.

The stiff fines followed a public outcry about dog owners allowing their dogs to leave waste in parks and on other people's lawns, Gypsum Town Manager Jeff Shroll said. As the snow melts in the spring, Shroll said a few town parks are "filthy."

Eagle's fines are also stiff:

• $40, first offense

• $100, second offense

• $250, after that. You can also be found an habitual offender. That's another $300 each time.

On the other hand, Eagle gives the occasional attaboy awards to pet owners who have their dogs on a leash.

If a county animal services officer has to round up your pet, it will cost you an impound fee, a daily fee to take care of your pet and a vaccination fee if they're there for more than a day or so.

Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.