Denver Direct: Enforcement of Off Leash Dogs in Denver Parks

Friday, June 1, 2012

Enforcement of Off Leash Dogs in Denver Parks

Subject: Off Leash 5/29/12

May 31, 2012

TO:  Scott Gilmore, Deputy Manager of Parks
RE:  Leash-Law Enforcement Meeting May 29, 2012

Scott, thank you for organizing and chairing the meeting “Enforcement of Off Leash Dogs in Denver Parks.”  The participants you invited to the meeting are those that, through coordinated efforts, will be able to make the difference in addressing the illegal behavior of some dog owners across the city.

The group agreed to the following:
  • Off leash dogs have caused too many safety issues and thus enforcement of Denver’s leash law must be achieved; 
  • Even the best voice controlled dog can become distracted and thus out of control;
  • Total compliance with the leash law is unrealistic;
  • For first time offenders, warnings should be issued unless the off leash dog owner’s behavior warrants a ticket;
  • Repeat offenders must be issued a ticket;
  • Coordinated efforts of Park staff, animal control, Park Rangers and police officers will achieve the best results;
  • Educating dog owners that increased enforcement efforts will start on June 1, 2012 needs to be worked on;
  • Denver now has 10 dog parks available for those that desire to run their dog off leash;
  • Denver’s population continues to increase and thus more park land is needed for its residents.  

 It was alarming to hear, before the new enforcement efforts have even been implemented,  that it is impossible to achieve total leash law compliance and thus other options will need to be considered in the future such as allowing off leash during certain times of the day within Denver’s parks.  All drivers do not stop at a red light intersections.  Instead of working to accommodate this illegal behavior, Denver has chosen to install cameras at intersections  and issue tickets to offenders. Enforcement has been strengthened, not reduced.

 If total compliance of the leash law cannot be achieved, would the same be true for parameters stipulated for off leash hours during given times of the day? Furthermore, will the desire to demand adding more off leash hours and areas of the park be advocated due to legalizing off leash options?  Bottom line: simplistic solutions cause long term harm! Who pays the price for these flawed solutions?

 In a dense urban environment, with thousands of dogs, what would be the result of offering park green space for off leash activity?  Would those that currently go to dog parks decide that there are now other options available?  Besides safety concerns, would off leash dogs displace other park users’ activities?  Does Parks and Recreation have the funds to replace damaged park turf caused by off leash dogs running in packs? What health issues arise when people unknowingly come in contact with dog feces in areas that at certain times of the day allow off leash dogs?  Would Denver’s off leash park sites be a draw to residents in neighboring municipalities?  What impact would there be to residents that have homes next to or near an off leash dog site? What might be the impact on the property tax base caused by tarnishing neighborhood parks?

It was also alarming to hear that another solution to the “off leash dog problem” is changing Denver’s current leash law to allow more off leash options within parks — proposals would need to be supported by council members and drafted into revised ordinance proposals. 

Another flawed reason for promoting additional off leash sites:  Dogs need exercise and many people live in apartments/condos.  Walking dogs on a leash is giving a dog exercise.  If off leash is desired then a dog owner must go to a location that allows this kind of activity — dog parks.  I am a tennis advocate.  It would not be appropriate to construct tennis courts anywhere within Cheesman Park.  If I want to play tennis, I must go to a park that has tennis courts.  Cheesman is a passive park with historic significance. Goals of the Cheesman Park’s Master Plan’s include:
  • Restore Cheesman Park’s legacy through historic preservation;
  • Create an accessible park with a pedestrian focus;
  • Create a safe and enjoyable park experience for all park users;
  • Reduce crime, vehicular volume and speed, noise and pollution. 

Denver’s population is expected to increase significantly over the next few years.  More park land will be needed to accommodate the demands for green space.  The primary purpose of parks is to provide all citizens access to the experience of nature and recreational opportunities such as playing games, taking walks, enjoying a picnic, reading a book . . .   Parks did not come into existence to provide green space for off leash dogs.  People make a choice to have or not have a dog.  With that choice comes the responsibility to care for that animal within legal parameters, respect for other people and demonstrated understandings of appropriate use of park land. 

Members of Neighbors and Friends For Cheesman Park have rejected proposals for legal off leash dog sites at Cheesman Park since 2002.  Three times Cheesman Park advocates fought this kind of a proposal over the course of 10 years.  At an NFFCP annual meeting the following motion  passed unanimously: ” NFFCP does not support any part of Cheesman Park being converted into a dog park or any part of Cheesman Park to be an off leash dog site.”  Why anyone would want to desecrate beautiful historic Cheesman Park is beyond logical reasoning!  
Scott, I know you are passionate about Denver’s parks.  This was demonstrated by your active participation in the Parks and Recreation Advisory Group and your leadership as Deputy of Parks.  You are commended for personally taking time to visit parks and communicate with park users.  I look forward to working with you in our mutual desire for improving Denver’s current parks and adding more land to become parks.

Jay H. Rust, Neighbors and Friends For Cheesman Park
1299 Gilpin St. #15E  80218