Pit bull attack sends Breckenridge town council barking up wrong tree, survey says
November 8, 2013
Breckenridge residents are more concerned about off-leash dogs than any specific breed.
A survey distributed to homeowners associations, and posted on the Engage Breckenridge website, showed overwhelming opposition to a breed-specific ban in town.
There were 1,374 total responses to the survey, which revealed that residents did not believe a breed ban or restriction would improve public safety. Residents were not in favor of banning or restricting a specific breed, with 1,159 people voting against the idea and only 193 voting in favor.
The biggest dog issues people listed were irresponsible owners, dogs off leash, lack of enforcement and excrement.
In August, two loose pit bulls attacked a beagle on Hoosier Pass, resulting in severe injuries to the beagle and a deputy shooting and killing one of the pit bulls.
Kathryn Grohusky posted a comment on the town's Facebook page, saying Breckenridge should enforce leash laws, which would benefit the community more than banning a certain kind of dog.
"There are no bad dogs really, just bad owners," she wrote. "Proactive measures are better in the long run."
In light of these results, Chief of Police Shannon Haynes recommended that the town council fine-tune current ordinances with respect to vicious dogs and consider implementing specific sanctions and penalties as a response to behavior issues.
Rebecca Bean, owner of the Dog House dog day care in Breckenridge, said banning certain breeds would be a huge mistake.
In an email to the town council, she wrote: "Telling (tourists and locals) their dogs are no longer welcome just because they are on a list that excludes them is a tragedy. It sends a really sad message about our town. Education is the answer to this problem."
Some of Haynes' proposed changes include updating the Animal Care & Control ordinance to address "dangerous" dogs by expanding the current "vicious" dog description, and providing conditions for keeping a dog deemed dangerous. Conditions may include posting a warning sign, reporting to the state, registering a dangerous animal, requirement of an escape-proof enclosure and implementation of a microchip.
She also suggests adding "at-risk" dogs to town ordinances, to include dogs that have not engaged in actions causing injury, but that have displayed menacing or threatening behavior, or repeatedly run at large. Haynes also wants to recognize and encourage successful training by owners, to alleviate the risks associated with their pets.
A majority of comments on Engage Breckenridge fell in line with the survey results, as very few people posted in support of a breed ban.
Marie S., whose last name was not posted per Engage Breckenridge policy, said, "I feel that banning pit bulls is a necessary rule, however unpopular it may be."
Pat Demma of Breckenridge also wrote an email in support of a pit bull ban.
"We don't need another tragedy to happen in this town," she said. "Please approve the ban, but grandfather in the pit bulls that are already registered, requiring strict compliance with leash laws."
In her memo to the council, Haynes also recommends investigating potential partnerships with organizations to offer programs designed to prevent incidents through education and training. One of those measures could include participating in the Yellow Dog Project, in which owners tie a yellow ribbon on the leash as a sign their dog needs more space.
The next step is to analyze current Breckenridge ordinances and develop a plan for training, owner support, education and enforcement. The town council will discuss the survey results at its meeting Tuesday, Nov. 12.
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