Walking down the streets of Carbondale, it would be difficult to miss all the happy dogs strolling along with their owners. What might be a bit more challenging to locate are the leashes that keep our dogs safe when traveling outside the home.
According to Carbondale’s Municipal Code Section 7-6-250, “It is unlawful to own, control or have charge of any dog which is running at large. A dog is deemed to be running at large when it is on public property, in a public place or away from the premises of the owner.”
The exceptions to this code are when the dog is restrained on a leash, within a motor vehicle or similar physical enclosure, within the boundaries of a Town dog park or other facility the Town has deemed off-leash, or if the dog is confined, with the permission of the premise’s owner, within an outdoor fence or enclosure.
Additionally, the code states that “leashes must be no more than seven feet in length. The use of a leash is not a substitute for the requirement that the owner is responsible for maintaining control of his or her dog at all times.” Owners who violate the “Running at large” code could receive a monetary penalty of up to $300 or, depending upon the number of violations, a court summons.
“No matter how friendly or well-behaved the dog is, an off-leash dog can overwhelm another dog that is on-leash,” notes Chris McKelvey, owner of Chris McKelvey School of Dog Training. “Not everybody likes dogs. If someone is out hiking or walking in town they do not want to be jumped on [by an off-leash dog].”
Beth Broome, who is a Certified Canine Behavior Consultant and veterinarian assistant at Alpine Animal Hospital also agrees with the leash code.
“The best and most responsible thing you can do is have your dog on-leash [when hiking or walking around town]. Teach your dog how to be comfortable on a leash, or seek someone who can help you. It promotes safety for all dogs, people, runners, cyclists, and wildlife.”
Additionally, Broome notes that off-leash dogs not only cause problems for other dogs, but also for cyclists and runners who are recreating on the local trails.
“I’ve seen cyclists go head-over-handlebars simply because they were trying to avoid hitting a dog while riding downhill.”
Red Hill Recreation Area is a popular trail system where off-leash dogs and recreationalists often clash. At the trailhead, an official notice from the Red Hill Council and Bureau of Land Management states, “Garfield County ordinance requires dog owners to keep their dogs under physical, audible or visual control at all times. If you use audible or visual controls, an Animal Control Officer may ask you to demonstrate your dog’s obedience. Failure to control your dog may result in fines and court appearances.”
Additionally, uncontrolled off-leash dogs can become menaces for wildlife. The Red Hill Council notes that “When dogs chase deer, elk, small mammals, and birds, these animals use valuable energy. It is difficult for stressed wildlife to keep warm, find food, care for young, and defend themselves against natural predators.”
Broome adds that having a true voice-controlled dog is very rare and very difficult to do. In heavily trafficked areas such as Red Hill, it is best to keep your dog on-leash.
Fortunately for owners and dogs, Carbondale offers three incredible off-leash parks: Delaney Nature Park, Hendrick Park, and Glassier Park.
“Delaney Nature Park is unlike any other dog park around.” Eric Brendlinger, Carbondale Parks and Recreation Directors exclaims. “The park has 35 acres of off-leash terrain and plenty of opportunity for dogs and people to socialize. We also just installed a brand new, industry-standard agility course for dogs to enjoy at Hendrick Park.”
Brendlinger adds that while Delaney is an off-leash zone, it is not technically a dog park. Therefore, owners are responsible for picking up after their dogs, keeping dogs away from the adjacent ranch, and ensuring the safety of all dogs and walkers.
“There is a small percent of owners who do not follow the rules. Our goal is to create enough public education to change that small percent to follow the rules and stay safe,” Brendlinger states.