VanMeveren Law Group September 2017

Foundations 9 7 0

September 2017

Hit the Trails With Fido

A ter running through our beautiful Fort Collins’ foothills trails for nearly 20 years, I’ve had my fair share of dog encounters. As much as I love dogs, including our own crazy rescue dog, Bandit, coming face to face with an aggressive, unleashed dog on the trail is still an unnerving experience. What’s the problem with letting your dog run free on our foothills trails, or anywhere else in Fort Collins for that matter? Well, for starters, you risk a fine up to $1,000 for having an unleashed dog. Second, should your dog bite and injure someone else or their pet, you could be exposed to a civil claim for damages that may or may not be covered by insurance. For the past six years, Fort Collins’ natural area park rangers have issued over 200 citations each year. Off-leash citations account for 40 percent of the citations and are the No. 1 reason for the tickets issued by rangers. There is a strong difference of opinion regarding off-leash laws. Many folks believe there should be a zero tolerance policy in order to protect people, their pets, wild animals, and the environment. Other folks would prefer a “voice and sight” program similar to the current plan in Boulder. The “voice and sight” program permits off-leash dogs on specific Boulder-area trails, provided that the dog owner attends a class, pays a fee, meets vaccination requirements, and displays a city-issued green tag on the dog. But the program in Boulder has been difficult to regulate as very few dogs are good under voice control alone. Much like Larimer County, Boulder imposes serious fines for off-leash dogs that do lack the green tags — or for off-leash dogs outside of the designated trails. Fort Collins currently manages three dog parks and the search continues for a suitable large off-leash area for dogs and dog owners. As our community’s love for dogs continues to grow, another dog park is in our future, but until then, be sure to keep your dog on leash. This way, you avoid those steep off-leash fines and the potential exposure to civil liability. If you are looking for a nearby trail to take your dog (on-leash, naturally), here are a few of my favorite dog-friendly trail runs: Timber Trail, Blue Sky Trail, Arthur’s Rock Trail, and Maxwell Natural Area. Maybe I’ll see you and your dog out there!

Bandit and his devoted master, Kendall.

Did You Know?

Larimer County’s animal code can impose penalties of up to 12 months in prison or $1,000 in fines for animal-related offenses. Offenses include letting dogs roam free or at large, failure to remove dog feces, failure to properly fence or leash your dog, and for excessive barking, whining, or howling.

–Bryan VanMeveren

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