Denver dog leash debate reignites, despite law requiring dogs to be on leash

Designated dog parks allow off-leash dogs

DENVER – As the population of Denver grows, so does the number of people unfamiliar with city ordinances.

Under Denver’s Leash Law, dogs are required to be secured at all times unless they are in a designated city dog park.

According to Denver Parks rangers, the most frequent complaint they receive surrounds that specific ordinance.

Tuesday didn’t bring out very many dog owners to Confluence, Commons, Sloan’s Lake or Washington parks. However, Denver7 met owners on both sides of the heated debate.

“Your dog may be great for you, and you know your dog. I don't know your dog. Your dog doesn't know me,” Mike O’Mara said.

He was out at Sloan’s Lake Park, walking his dog, BB. She was on a leash.

O’Mara said the two walk the park daily. He said the growing number of dog owners who are new to the area has led to some off-leash issues on the trail.

“There's so many more people in town, and everybody has their own styles and attitudes about walking their dogs,” he said.

The debate has been reignited.

Denver7 was there as Denver Park Ranger Howard Paul approached a woman who was walking her dog off-leash.

“Denver Park Ranger Paul! Could I talk to you a minute?” he shouted as he began to explain Denver’s leash law to the dog owner.

In the summertime, Paul said, he responds to between six and eight complaints a day about "loose leashers." That number has dwindled down this winter, but remains the biggest complaint to the department.

Paul added, “Some people just don't care. They're willing to take the fine if they're caught.”

The fine isn’t cheap. The first offense will set you back $100. People will pay $250 for a second violation and $500 for a third.

“I see both sides of it,” Ryan Tibbitts said.

Tibbitts admitted to taking his dog, Aspen, off-leash. His argument: “She's trained off-leash. She has an off-leash collar.”

However, Tibbitts said he understands the concern, the unpredictability, the different temperaments and the illegality.

“I did, once, have someone come out and say there had be a complaint called in 15 minutes prior. We had only been out there for two minutes, so it wasn’t on us,” he said.

His stance is, “If they’re not properly trained, then they probably shouldn’t be off-leash. But if they are, then I don’t see any reason why they couldn’t be.”

Many loose-leashers claimed their dog was extremely obedient, and that other dog owners shouldn’t be concerned. However, even if that is the case, leashers pointed to leash aggression – meaning any off-leash dog who approaches can trigger that dog.

When it comes down to the off-leash issue, Park Ranger Paul said it’s simply, “You’re infringing on the rights of other people to enjoy the park. That’s the bottom line.”

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