- Associated Press - Sunday, March 9, 2014

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) - Tens of thousands of dog owners may need to re-apply for licenses and attend a class on the rules of the program that allows dogs to walk off-leash on many Boulder open space trails.

Dogs with special tags are supposed to be under voice and sight control of their owners, but there is no requirement that owners demonstrate that level of control.

Instead, owners pay $15 - $18.75 if they live outside Boulder - and promise that they’ve watched a video explaining the rules. To lose the privileges, owners or dogs have to be convicted of violations three times within two years.

A city study of green-tag compliance found roughly half of dogs didn’t come when called, though advocates for dogs on open space criticized the study’s methodology.

The requirement that dog owners - or guardians, in the preferred Boulder terminology - attend a class to keep their dogs’ green-tag privileges comes along with increased enforcement around dog behavior and fewer chances for dogs or people to break the rules and still keep their tags, the Boulder Daily Camera reported (https://tinyurl.com/krzce6r).

Steve Armstead, an environmental planner with Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, said the department has had a lot of feedback over the years from both residents and visitors that dogs on open space are one of the most frequent sources of user conflict in the system.

“We’re trying to have a program that can improve compliance with voice and sight control and a program that will work long into the future and ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone and a program that protects natural resources,” he said. “We found room for improvement in compliance and ensuring that dogs under voice and sight aren’t causing impacts on other users and on resources.”

If the city council approves, the ordinance would go into effect Jan. 15, 2015, to give current tag holders time to re-apply and comply with the education requirement.

The city made an effort last year to identify tag holders who had moved away or were no longer active for other reasons. After that imperfect culling of the rolls, the city was still left with 32,000 tag holders.

The tags also would have to be re-issued every year.

Dogs showing aggressive behavior or endangering wildlife will lose tag privileges after the first offense, though they can regain those privileges by demonstrating they are under voice-and-sight control.

Dogs can also lose privileges if they or their owners are convicted of two less serious violations - such as not picking up waste - in a two-year time span.

Fines for violations will increase to $100 for a first offense, instead of $50, and to $200 for a second offense and $300 for a third offense. The penalty for going off leash while under suspension would also be $300.

Eli Kalen, who works at Ozo Coffee, frequently takes his Australian shepherd Frida off-leash on open space trails.

“She gets pent up,” he said. “She needs to run around and sniff stuff.”

Kalen said he doesn’t see any need to change the program, and the stricter rules set dogs up for failure.

“Mostly it’s not a problem,” he said. “Dogs are never 100 percent compliant.”

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