Leash Laws, Voice Command Training and the Human Factor

leashlawsinfortcollins

Resident pet owners in Fort Collins are not shy about sharing their opinion on Fort Collins leash laws. Active, outdoorsy folks have a much different viewpoint than Mom’s, home owner’s associations or the elderly, and dog owners have different insights than cat owners. Then, just for fun, let’s throw in the folks who are just not “animal people”, and probably shake their fists at all the pesky squirrels digging holes in their lawn.

Yet, despite the various heated viewpoints of community members, frustration around leash laws in Fort Collins is much more about the clash between feeling free to exercise the right to raise and care for your pets how you see fit, and how other people feel about that choice.

The Human Flaw in Leash Law

The simple fact is that the laws could be different if people were better with how they train and manage their pets. Cats, dogs, horses or any other animal that is going to interact with people within and outside of your family needs formal training. The leash cannot do all of the work. The owner needs to be connecting with their pet and noticing cues for agitation, fear, or discomfort, in addition to paying close attention to how the animal interacts with other animals and humans while on trails and streets throughout the city. Safety is a first priority for all.

Some breeds have inherent traits, but it’s the training and formative emotional experiences that shape a pet’s behavior. That’s why there is such a push to circulate positive stories about Pit Bulls. With proper training and love, they are as wonderful as any other breed. On the other hand, a small, nasty, snippy dog can be very dangerous if poorly trained. While in highschool my sister was running through a local neighborhood and got bit in the calf by a small dog that chased her. Not only did the owner give her attitude, but took no responsibility for the dog’s behavior or resulting tetanus shot bill.

Off-Leash Options for Dogs

One option for getting your dog off-leash is a dog park, and they have both pros and cons.

Pros:

You can let your dog off leash, they have a safe, contained space and provide opportunities to socialize and run off energy.

Cons:

The downside is that you need to drive your dog there if no park is close by, and the environment is a bit like high school — some of the dogs are just straight up “bitches” that cause problems or they may be sick. So the one place where you could feel good about letting your pet off-leash is not always ideal for your pet.

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Voice command training for dogs is one option that has been introduced in Boulder with mild success. The program is called the Voice and Sight Tag program (TAG). According to the City of Boulder website, “the curriculum was designed to help dog guardians better understand the voice and sight control standards, therefore, helping to reduce the conflicts between dogs, visitors and wildlife.”

In a recent article by Erika Napoletano called Taking your Pet Off-Leash in Boulder County, a Guide “The city of Boulder  requires all dog owners who wish to walk their dogs off-leash to go through a video training program. Once you’ve reviewed the video and can affirm that your dogs meet all of the criteria specified, you’re then eligible to apply for a special tag. This is a green tag that certifies your dog can and will be kept within your sight at all times while off-leash and is responsive to voice commands while on the trails.”

Traveling or doing recreational trips within the state can still be an issue as you would need a tag ahead of time, and it’s more expensive for out-of-city residents. In fact, because the leash laws are different in each city, it’s challenging for recreational folks who like to take dogs along on their adventures.

Here’s some additional information on the City of Boulder site that cover basics on how the program works and common FAQ’s.

These details are helpful in explaining the program, but I didn’t find much documentation on the success of the program so far. It appears current laws are relying heavily on fines as punitive damages rather than addressing the human negligence and common sense element of the equation for enforcing leash laws.

And Then There are Cat Leash Laws…

In my opinion, the leash laws for cats in Fort Collins are a bit absurd. If your cat does great on a leash, fantastic, but the whole idea of it just seems so silly. Our two cats never went far from home when I used to let them outdoors, and by the time the law went into effect in the city, they were already too set in their ways to train.

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One day a neighbor took photos of our two cats on OUR OWN BACK PORCH, and we still got fined from the city for having a cat off-leash. It was in my conversation with the animal control officer after having to PURCHASE photos of my cat’s transgressions to confirm they were mine (one of them wasn’t), that I realized the leash laws for cats serve those who complain most.

I do realize outdoor cats pose a threat to wildlife, but so don’t many other things. If you are engaging your cat in play, they can exercise their hunting skills in the home, but lack of outdoor time also gives cats no opportunity work off the energy they collect from sitting around all day. I just don’t believe cats were meant to strictly stay inside, but after my run-in with the animal control, I just play by the rules.

Despite personal feelings about leash laws, people, pets and wildlife all have to share the beautiful recreational space in Fort Collins, so it’s important to be respectful pet owner. Learn to connect with your pet, stay present when spending time with them and get basic training skills under your belt to make co-existing in Fort Collins a happier experience for all of us.

For more information on local leash laws for cats and dogs in Fort Collins, check out the Fort Collins city site and Fort Collins Cat Rescue and Spay & Neuter Clinic.

Now, I want to hear from you. What are you thoughts on leash laws for dogs or cats?

Photo credit for park sign: tdubose, dogs playing: Michael Kappel

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  • http://www.freshairfortcollins.com Chloe

    Dogs and owners who suck still find ways to get off leash or lunge at our dogs from leashes that are way too long because their owners aren’t willing to train them to be on a regular leash. Our dogs don’t wander, heel on command on and off leash and it’s absurd that they should have to be on a leash at all times no matter what. I like Boulder’s approach and wish we had that here. I have no problem letting an Animal Control department with good policies be the fall back plan for owners abusing a voice control program. If you have to apply for a tag and demonstrate obedience, that seems sufficient. That is basically what we require teenagers to do in order to drive a car. I think we can all agree they are far more dangerous than dogs =] In any case, I’d prefer it to the Larimer County approach, which is to not actually deal with animal control problems. And they are totally incompetent. They had to call me back 3 times just to get an incident written-up correctly, after I had already called them a 4 times just to get someone to pick up the phone. I had a German shepherd with a known history of attacking dogs and people attack a dog I was watching on land that had no signage and the ownership of which was unclear (no area residents uses leashes there) and instead of dealing with an irresponsible owner and aggressive animal by issuing them a warning or citation (or heaven forbid, following an escalation policy that would require an aggressive dog to always be leashed), they just tried to give me a citation for having the dog I was watching off leash….he was sitting still 4 feet from me when the German shepherd ran and jumped on him. Larimer County Animal Control sucks and is part of the animal control problem because they do nothing to discourage irresponsible ownership and just punish everyone when only certain animals and people are a problem. Good news is that a lot of places up Poudre Canyon don’t require leashes =]

    • Katrina Pfannkuch

      It’s when you have a problem with your pet that you realize the resources available may be part of the problem. What I gleaned in my experience was that regulations are put in place for the people who complain the most, and usually about property issues. Regulations aren’t always as supportive about practical things like managing multiple complaints about the same animal. With so many animals to manage, they just create across-the-board laws that don’t fit many individual cases. Really the challenge is in managing the people, which is really hard to do.

      I think some basic training requirements for dogs would be a good start, but enforcing humans to do anything is always the challenge. People need to realize that having a pet is a big responsibility and that it requires paying attention and connecting to what your pet is doing at home, in the neighborhood or on the trail.

      I think the trick, as with Boulder, is that they still aren’t sure how to enforce more responsible behavior beyond fines, and some people just don’t care. They ignore it or just pay the fine.

  • Vivienne Jannatpour

    This is a city of Boulder Program, not a Boulder County program. Ms. Napoletano did not check her facts. Please correct your article. Thanks!

    In a recent article by Erika Napoletano called Taking your Pet Off-Leash in Boulder County, a Guide “Boulder County requires all dog owners who wish to walk their dogs off-leash to go through a video training program.

    • http://tailsoffortcollins.com/ Katrina Pfannkuch

      Hi Vivienne! Thanks for the heads up. Are you a resident of Boulder or an employee in the city?

      I’m unable to change the name of the article I linked to as I did not originally write it, but I was able to edit the supporting text. Hopefully it’s accurate now.

      Thanks!

  • Lauren Melius

    I really really wish we could implement the green tag idea similar to Boulder. We just had an incident where we were walking our very obedient dog on a sidewalk behind some houses when an elderly resident came out to his back gate and verbally attacked us to have our dog on a leash. He proceeded to open his gate, call our dog in and take our dog and shut him into this man’s backyard. Uhm, yes we entered this man’s property to attempt to get our pooch back! I mean you wouldn’t let someone just take your child! This elderly man literally threatened to “blow our faces off”. He went inside “to grab his gun” and came out with a camera to take our pictures. We finally called our dog back to us through an open entrance from the front yard. What is ridiculous is our reasoning of not calling the cops is knowing we would be the ones to get a frickin ticket. Control the people!