In Grand County, dogs are not legally permitted to run free | SkyHiNews.com

In Grand County, dogs are not legally permitted to run free

Drew Munro
dmunro@skyhidailynews.com

Dogs run free, why can't we?

Apologies to Bob Dylan, but dogs aren't supposed to run free, at least not in most populated places, including Grand County.

Now that summer has arrived, Grand County Animal Control wants to remind dog owners that keeping dogs on a leash or otherwise under control is important and legally required.

"We've been having problems," said Mary Ann Kerstiens, county animal control officer. "We give more warnings during the summer."

Many dog owners assume they don't have to have their dogs on a leash because most Grand County towns don't have a leash law (Hot Sulphur Springs does have a leash law, Karstiens said.)

They're wrong. Kerstiens said the law requires several things when the dog is off its property:

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• The owner or guardian must be physically present and within sight of the dog;

• The dog must be on on a leash;

• Or the dog must be under voice command.

She also emphasized that the latter does not mean the dog responds eventually: It must obey immediately so the owner has control of it at all times.

In spite of this, many owners let their dogs run free, even during public gatherings.

A recent letter to the editor chronicled a dog fight at a concert in Winter Park caused by a dog roaming at large. In fact, many of the dog-related altercations the county sees involve dogs fighting.

Kerstiens urges all dog owners to take precautions. For instance, when encountering other dogs, owners should ask the other owner if it's OK for the dogs to approach one another. Do not assume the other dog is friendly.

Nor is it necessarily safe to take an owner's word for it. Dog owners often say "he's friendly" when in fact the dog is friendly to its family but not others.

Hikers and bicyclists must be cautious around free-roaming dogs as well, since their instincts may take over.

Kerstiens says many dogs are territorial about trails.

"We have some dogs who think trails are their trails.

And many breeds "prey" on bicycles.

"They're wanting to herd you," she said.

The bottom line, she said, is to be respectful of others.

"It's all about the safety of your dog and other dogs."

And about legal ramifications.

If your dog is running free and it harms another dog, you are liable for all veterinary costs and may be subject to a lawsuit. A dog biting a person is even worse.

"If it's a dog bite, that's a whole other story," Kerstiens warns, as those cases tend to end up in court and can involve criminal charges.

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