Denver wants to tighten the leash on businesses that allow off-leash dogs

Posted at 6:56 PM, May 09, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-09 20:56:57-04

DENVER – Denver’s Department of Public Health and Environment recently released draft rules and regulations governing off-leash enclosures.

After reviewing the draft, Denver businesses reached out to Denver7 with their concerns.

“The current proposed regulations would close the Watering Bowl,” owner Justin Henry told Denver7.

The Watering Bowl along Leetsdale in Denver is a family-friendly business, known for its outdoor and off-leash patio.

Since November 2013, it has provided families and their dogs with a unique place to play and eat.

“We'll have newborns in here, to college kids to grandparents,” Henry said.

However, draft rules would impose two major restrictions that could potentially impact business.

For one, the DDPHE proposal would restrict kids under 10-years-old to be allowed around canines in specified off-leash enclosures.

Across town, Trent Brocker of EarthDog Denver shared his concerns.

“I'm not entirely sure how I would enforce them,” he said.

It’s not EarthDog Denver’s doggy daycare or boarding part of the business that would be impacted, but the birthday parties hosted at the establishment along Kalamath.

Specifically, dog parties that are meant for the whole family to enjoy.

“I can't imagine a parent telling their 9-year-old child that they couldn't come to their dog's birthday party,” Brocker said.

So, Brocker’s landlord and Denver lawyer, James Bertini wrote the health department.

Bertini claims the draft ordinance violates parts of the U.S. Constitution.

He specified the First Amendment, because he said the rules restrict conditions in which people can meet if dogs happen to be present.

He said the Fourth Amendment would be violated since enforcement would ultimately bring authorities onto private property, leading to unreasonable searches.

Then, he said, “The Fifth and the Fourteenth Amendments because of the due process and equal protection rights that are violated in this ordinance.”

Beyond the age limitation, the second major change would be the restriction of food and beverage within the off-leash enclosures.

“Without this patio, I have no business,” Justin Henry said about the Watering Bowl.

The draft also explains the $999 penalty in the case the rules are violated.

Denver7 spoke with Alice Nightengale, Director of Animal Protection for the City and County of Denver. She explained the public hearing that was originally scheduled for Thursday, May 10th was canceled and will be rescheduled.

Throughout the process, she said the department recognized there could be different approaches, tailored to different business models.

For now, the department will take comment and use focus groups to better understand the unique needs of those who would ultimately be impacted by any new regulations.

Nightengale said this is the product of the department wanting to be proactive in a world where pet owners are more often bringing their dogs into public spaces.

She said the public hearing could be rescheduled in the next three to four months.