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How Do You Solve Off-leash Dogs when Skate Skiing or Biking?

In this weekend’s Park Record, Bart Nichols wrote an Guest Editorial entitled “Where the Dogs Don’t Run Free” about run-ins he had with police and animal control officers over the past few months. His pro-offleash-dog point was we need to come up with a compromise solution around off leash dogs.

One of his points was “So as of now the Summit County Council is basically making it illegal to bike or run with your dog (try biking or running single track with two dogs on leashes) in Round Valley or other open spaces…”

I am about as pro off-leash dog as one could get. I firmly believe responsible dog owners should be able to have their animals off-leash but I also firmly believe in SEVERE consequences if a problem arises.

The difficult part with supporting biking or skate skiing with a dog is that in many cases:

  • There is a significant distance between the owner and the dog
  • Both the rider and dog are moving at a speed faster than the average hiker/walker
  • There is a disincentive to stopping and picking up poop (have to get out of skis or off the bike)… if the owner even sees the poop

I’ll acknowledge that not everyone fits into the category above. Some dogs stick by their owners. Some owners stop and get out of their bindings to bag their poop. Yet, I see a huge proportion of those populations where it’s more about the skier/biker and their dog and less about being a responsible pet owner.

That’s the problem in figuring a good solution for this problem. On one side, the owner who wants to ski with their best friend can’t go do that in a fenced in dog park. On the other hand, others shouldn’t have to be negatively impacted because someone chooses to be irresponsible.

Mr Nichols, in his editorial, came up with a few ideas to address the solution (aggressive dogs, dogs in high population areas, dogs in areas around trail heads, and dogs at events should be on leash but in other places dogs should be allowed to be off-leash). However, I’m not sure that solves the entire problem.

What if a bike rider’s husky is just a playful pup and bounds enthusiastically at a person or dog (which I have seen) and scares them… or worse jumps on them. Is that fair to the person walking with their 10 pound bichon? What of the poop that isn’t picked up because it isn’t seen or it’s too hard to pick up? What of the dogs I see running way up through the sage brush at Round valley, with the owner nowhere in sight. If that’s OK, should we all just wander aimlessly through Round Valley, trampling the open space?

I completely get what Mr Nichols is saying. We love our dogs and we want to spend time with them. Yet, some things just don’t have a great solution. This is likely one of those topics where we need to finally decide whether we are Bark City and look at ways to make off leash dogs both safe and more respectful (even though that will be very expensive) or decide we don’t want off leash dogs and we take the measures to enforce that (even though that will be very expensive, too).

I think we need some out of the box ideas because what we are doing now just seems non-coordinated and wasteful. Perhaps instead of giving Basin Rec $10 million for buying open space next time, we invest some money in certifications for off leash dogs, people to pick up the poop on trails, enforcement of dog incidents, and trail monitoring. Perhaps, we put in the stiffest fines and consequences possible for poor dog/owner behavior. Perhaps we invest in other large scale areas for dog parks like the Run-Amuck trail. Perhaps we find ways for the average trail user to easily report bad trail behavior (i.e. some sort of app for your phone).

I completely agree with Mr Nichols that stationing a police officer at a trail head is not an answer. Nor is having animal control officers hiking trails to enforce leash laws (although I’m skeptical that would ever happen).

Reagrdless, the dog-debate purgatory we are living in has to come to an end.





Walt Wehner

I lived through this debate in Boulder CO about 10 years ago. No amount of training, special tags, or new rules will matter to the folks whose dogs are really problems, but it’ll make life suck for responsible dog owners and dogs. Good luck going *anywhere* with your dog in Boulder now.

The reality is that there isn’t really a problem with dogs right now, at least one that can’t be solved by aggressive enforcement of existing rules against dogs harming people or wildlife. Pretty easy. But making new rules is what people seem to always want to do. C’est la vie.

Al Davis

As usual it’s more about people than it is about dogs – e.g. “responsible dog owner” & “common sense” apply to people. I agree that severe penalties should apply but how do you do that when the dog bites somebody and then the dog and owner run away – yep it’s happened – ask Dave Hanscom. Bite and run should carry the same penalty as hit and run but do the police take both with the same level action. Note even close – bite and run is up to animal control and they have neither the same resources or incentives. Granted the problem is likely due to a small percentage of dog owners and the “only 1 bad apple spoils the barrel” platitude comes to mind.

Frankly the attitudes of people in Park City makes the whole shared trail idea look like a bit of a fiasco on the wonderful trail system that we’re very lucky to have. Maybe partitioned trails would make more sense and then everybody could whine.

Walt Wehner

Dave, when that happens, you say, “well, that sucks” and go on with your life. Because making a rule that will only affect the well-behaved dogs/owners is pointless.

There is not a huge surge of dog bites/problems. There are some bored folks who want to complain, though.

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