Dog owners living in and visiting Copper Mountain will soon have to keep their dogs on a leash in the growing town’s most congested areas.
On Tuesday the Summit County Commission voted, 3-0, in favor of the leash law, which was presented by Copper Mountain Resort Association executive director Peter Siegel.
During a public hearing, Siegel said the resort association’s board first backed in 2012 the idea of drafting a leash law ordinance as a public safety issue and to bring Copper Mountain inline with other towns in Summit County.
“After the restructuring of the board (in 2011) we discussed the fact that all of the other towns have a leash law, all of the rec paths that connect the towns have a leash law, so we should probably should have a leash law too,” Siegel said. “But, it’s also a public safety issue because we have had children bitten by dogs in the past.”
“It became evident that we get a lot of calls about unwanted dog-on-dog and dog-on-child interactions.”
Summit County Sheriff John Minor, whose agency is tasked with responding to such incidents because Copper Mountain does not have its own police force, reiterated Tuesday that his office would support a leash law if a majority of the residents wanted one in place.
According to a survey issued in June to Copper Mountain residents, a slim majority, 52 percent to 48 percent, voiced support of a leash law in town, Siegel said. Residents of Copper Mountain who attended Tuesday’s public forum were split in similar fashion.
Dog owner Diane Wightman said she didn’t think the survey results represented an overwhelming majority. She also questioned who would be authorized to enforce the law if passed, citing an incident last year when lift operators ordered her to leash her dog.
“My dog is voice and sight-command trained and I don’t walk him on a leash, but I keep one on me just in case,” Wightman said. “If someone approaches me on a trail it’s my responsibility to ask if they are okay with my dog and to leash him if they aren’t, not the town’s to make me.”
Tom Zebarth, though not a current dog owner, said he once had a cocker spaniel in the past. A longtime resident of Copper Mountain, Zebarth said he used to walk his dog without a leash until about the time it turned 10-years-old and bit a child while on a walk.
He said a leash law is “totally necessary,” not simply because of Copper Mountain’s growing population, but because of its growing attraction among visitors.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people open their doors and let their dogs run loose during their first time in the high country or their first time in Colorado for that matter,” Zebarth said. “I don’t know about all of the visitors to Summit County, but I would say three to five percent of them are idiots.
“Dogs are unpredictable and even the most perfectly trained, most perfectly behaved dog can go crazy.”
In the end, the board of county commissioners agreed with the slight majority.
Speaking in reference to some of the comments against the law from the survey, Commissioner Dan Gibbs said, “One person wrote Copper Mountain is a wilderness destination and I disagree. It’s a place where people live and where children grow up. If this law prevents one child from getting bitten by a dog, then I think this is a step in the right direction.”
The new law only applies to Copper Mountain’s most congested public right of ways, including streets, roads, recreation areas, skier parking lots and other areas of general public use. It is not enforceable on any private land, on the mountain or on the U.S. Forest Service trails used by Copper Mountain residents.
Copper Mountain’s security force will be tasked as first responders to incidents. Although penalties for violators were not discussed during the meeting, Siegel said the resort association plans to buy a few dozen leashes each year to give to visitors or first time offenders.
“We intend to buy leashes, as Frisco does,” Siegel said. “We think that is a great way to make people feel welcome and keep them coming back.”