The level of tension in Denver parks over people who let their dogs run off-leash "is pretty insane," says Mary Francis, a Highland resident. "People are openly yelling at each other at the park."
She and a young neighbor have what they think is a solution: Turn all Denver parks into off-leash dogs between 5 and 9 a.m. and again from 9 to 11 p.m., before the park curfew, a concept they've modeled after a program in New York City. This would be an important adjunct to Denver's dozen dog parks, they say, and they've created a change.org petition that has collected over 1,000 signatures.
"I don't think dog owners are trying to intentionally flout the law," Francis suggests. "I just think we have very few options, and we all live in the same community. I think there's a solution for it."
But in their comments on the Westword Facebook page about the off-leash dog park petition, readers point out issues with the concept, as well as Denver's dog parks in general — and the people who frequent them. Says Nicole:
If all dogs were well behaved off-leash, this would work, but that’s not the case. Plus, you’re ignoring people who are afraid of dogs.
There are these cool places called dog parks, designed for off-leash! It's where responsible dog owners take their dogs for the off-leash experience.
Dog parks are gross: no grass, too many dogs in a small space, etc. If you have an aggressive dog, don't let it off-leash at parks.
Dog parks are gross and dangerous, so let's turn all public space into giant gross dangerous dog parks.
The problem is the pet owners, not the pets. Two parks I frequent are Sunken Garden and Curtis Park. Both have had a huge section of grass killed and many holes dug by pooches, now making them a hazard to other uses. There is a reason for dog parks and it is more than just off-leash.
Most dog owners think they are entitled and the park belongs to them only. See it over and over; 97 percent of dog owners need to be on a leash.
You have to respect people. Parks are for people, dog parks are for dogs. If you want to exercise your dog unleashed, just go to a dog park!
Or we could start enforcing leash laws AND build some more dog parks?
There are not nearly enough off-leash parks for dogs here in Denver, considering how many people own them. I can think of at least five parks here that could add gated, off-leash parks and still have plenty of room for others.
The proposal fails to require additional education or training in exchange for off-leash privileges, as Boulder did when instituting their Voice and Sight Tag program. This is, frankly, not very reassuring to those of us concerned that this change would increase the number of untrained off-leash dogs in the neighborhood, which is already a problem due to poor enforcement of existing leash laws.
I love both of my dogs — and I know that untrained, off-leash dogs running up to us or other park users can create a dangerous situation for everyone involved. If they choose to move forward with this proposal, I urge Councilwoman Sandoval and her colleagues on the City Council to consider putting additional resources towards better leash law enforcement, requiring additional education and training prior to granting off-leash privileges, and keeping some parks within each district free of off-leash dogs at all times, to ensure that everyone can continue to enjoy them.
Owners need to understand the importance of training their dogs; simply being able to recall your dog when off-leash isn’t fully trained. You’ll need to also consider behavior aspects, traumas/triggers to your/or other animals, and you can’t account for anyone else’s behavior except your own. Our apartment complex doesn’t take the leash law seriously, and we have a dog fight at least once every two weeks in my area, because they’re young, untrained dogs that are protecting what they think is their territory, with owners who don’t understand how to read animal body language and let the situation escalate. A dog doesn’t need to be off-leash to get the proper exercise it needs, however, I will advocate for more dog parks. I do not feel confident with the level of training (or lack thereof) in the general public’s dogs.
What do you think about Denver dog parks? Does the city need more of them? Or would this plan for off-leash hours in regular parks work? Post a comment or share your thoughts at email@example.com.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.