People who walk their dogs on open space told the Boulder City Council on Wednesday night that new regulations for the green tag program that allows dogs to walk off leash were a gross overreach and unnecessary, but the elected leaders voted unanimously to give those rules initial approval.
Under the new rules, all green-tag holders — there could be as many as 32,000 of them — will need to re-apply for the tag and take a class to make sure they understand what it means to have their dog under voice and sight control and the rules of the program.
More serious offenses like endangering wildlife or behaving aggressively would result in suspension of green-tag privileges after one conviction, though dog owners could demonstrate they have their dog under adequate control and have their privileges restored.
Owners who are cited twice in a two-year period for violations like not being able to verbally control their dog, allowing their dog out of sight or allowing their dog to chase or harass wildlife would also lose privileges.
The current rules allow owners to have three violations in two years before they lose privileges.
After a change from an earlier version of the proposal, failure to pick up dog waste will not affect green-tag privileges.
Dog owners told the City Council they feel under too much scrutiny, when the program is already working well.
Daniel Sukle said the proposal doesn't meet the city's own guidelines that the least restrictive means possible be used to achieve goals and that implementation be incremental for managing open space.
"It seems hard to justify the words 'least restrictive' and 'incremental' when you look at the current proposal," he said. "An example is losing voice and sight access for a single offense of chasing wildlife. This could be as simple as flushing magpies."
Carolyn Usher said most of the problems probably come from people who use the trails infrequently, but they are less likely to be caught committing those violations.
"I'm afraid that the people who most often use the trails, who are most familiar with the etiquette, who are most compliant, are the most likely to be targeted just because of the numbers game," she said. "I'm concerned that those of us who use the trail all the time are the ones who will be ticketed."
She said there also needs to be allowances for puppies still learning the ropes and deaf dogs who can't hear their owners.
Eileen Monyok said the focus on dog behavior is unfair.
"Unruly children can run far ahead of their families and nothing happens, but your dog goes around a bend and you call once and he doesn't come, and you're out?" she said.
But Karen Hollweg of Friends of Boulder Open Space said the new rules were a culmination of a two-year-long public process and address a long-standing problem with aggressive dogs that affect wildlife and other dogs.
Under the ordinance, green tags will have to be renewed every year.
The fee structure also will be changed to more strongly favor Boulder residents, who will have to pay $13 for a tag and $5 for renewal, over out-of-city residents. Boulder County residents will have to pay $33 for a tag and $20 for renewal, and non-county residents will have to pay $75 for a tag and $30 for renewal.
Fines for violations will increase to $100 for a first offense, instead of $50, and to $200 for a second offense and $300 for a third offense. The penalty for going off leash while under suspension would also be $300.
A second vote and public hearing on the ordinance is tentatively scheduled for April 1.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Erica Meltzer at 303-473-1355 or email@example.com.