In Wednesday’s Park Record, the Summit County Council wrote an editorial on dogs. The title, “Self Regulation By Dog Owners is Best Solution” got us excited. The contents of the editorial, not so much.
The editorial basically says:
- Keep your dog on leash
- If you have a dog you know is safe off-leash, then use one of the county’s fenced in off-leash parks.
Wow, that is exceptionally helpful.
What we were expecting from the title was something that would work in the real world. You know, handle the most common situations where a person without a dog (or a leashed dog) encounters bikers, skiers, hikers, or people walking around town with their dogs off leash.
It seems to us that they need to just make a choice from the few available options and go with it. They could make the fine for an off leash dog so outrageous and universally enforced that citizens know that if the Sheriff, Park City Police, or Animal Control see a dog off leash, it will be an automatic $1000 fine.
The second option is to start a campaign like Mountain Trails 10 seconds of kindness, where Mountain Trails advocates being respectful of others. In this case we know dogs will be off-leash, so the County reinforces that if you come upon a dog that is leashed or a person without a dog, and your dog is unleashed, you and your animal step off the side of the trail. Simple. For bikers and skiers that is more effort, but it seems like a good compromise.
The third option is perhaps the most libertarian view. Leave the leash laws as they are and with current enforcement (basically unenforced) but if your dog bites a human, attacks a dog, or chases wildlife, you will be fined $5000 and pay restitution to the victim.
The final option is to continue on the path we are on. With this path, there are laws against off-leash dogs but they are rarely enforced. Likewise, the percentage of off-leash dogs that actually cause trouble is also very low. There will be occurrences where people are upset about the dogs, just like they are upset at other drivers. Yet, it is an acceptable loss versus the enjoyment and marketing Park City receives from its dog culture.
It seems the county has been beating this drum for years. At some point it just becomes white noise — and it probably already has for many people. We understand that they feel pressure to do something in light of the most recent dog biting incident, but at this point simply writing a letter to the paper means little.
We believe they either need to decide to take unilateral action, and face the certain backlash from citizens, or just say the law “is what it is” and in effect be quiet. Either way would be a welcome change from what we are seeing now.