If you go
What: Boulder City Council
When: 6 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Boulder Municipal Building, 1777 Broadway
Info: The council meeting is scheduled for Wednesday instead of Tuesday due to the Passover holiday. There will not be a new public hearing on the voice and sight control program, but people can address council during open comment. To read the memo on the green tag program and see the complete agenda, go to bit.ly/1nn6sLZ
The primary organization representing dog owners who use Boulder open space is supportive of changes to the green tag program after the City Council stepped back from plans to apply a "one strike" system to more serious offenses.
The Boulder City Council is scheduled to vote on Wednesday on a new version of the proposed changes. Procedurally, this is a continuation of the second reading that began at the April 1 meeting. Because the changes supported by the council developed out of the debate and were substantial, council members asked the city attorney's office to take some time to rewrite those portions of the ordinance and bring it back for a vote this week. The public hearing that was held on April 1 will not be re-opened.
If the ordinance is approved this week, it still will require a third vote before it goes into effect.
Lori Fuller, a board member of FIDOS, which advocates for the rights of dogs and dog owners on open space, said the new version of the ordinance strikes "a good balance."
"We especially appreciate that they took the strike program away from OSMP," she said. "The revocation program was a mess. These punitive actions should be handled through the court system rather than built into some legislative rules. We agree that these serious dog offenses should be handled through the court system."
Open Space and Mountain Parks had proposed that some serious offenses — aggressive dog and endangering wildlife — should result in immediate suspension of green tag privileges. The green tag program allows dogs to go off leash on open space provided they are within sight of their owner and under voice control.
Dogs would have been able to get their privileges back if they passed a test.
For less serious offenses, dogs could lose privileges for two violations within two years.
Many dog owners told the City Council that the strike system put too much power in the hands of rangers, particularly when some of the violations were inherently subjective.
They also said the test was too difficult, and many well-trained dogs would not have been able to pass.
The City Council changed the ordinance so that the municipal court judge will have discretion to determine the punishment for green tag violations, including ordering owners to take dog training classes or even, in the case of aggressive dog violations, ordering that an animal be euthanized, as could happen with an aggressive dog violation in other parts of the city.
Aggressive dog and endangering wildlife violations already are sent to the municipal court and cannot be handled by mail.
"The ranger becomes not just the enforcer, but the judge and jury," Fuller said of the previous proposal. "There's no reason for that. We have a judicial process that puts violations into context and determines appropriate consequences. It's reassuring to us that we'll get a chance before a judge to explain ourselves."
Open Space Director Mike Patton said he believes the changes still accomplish the department's goal of getting more compliance with green tag rules.
The proposal also requires all dog owners to re-apply for their green tags and take a one-hour class; additionally it raises the fee for a green tag and the fines for violations.
Fuller said the class will be inconvenient for many people, but FIDOS felt it was not unreasonable, especially if there is a perception that not all owners understand the requirements of the program.
If approved by the City Council on second and third reading, the changes would go into effect Jan. 1.
Patton said the department is prepared to start offering the classes soon after the ordinance receives final approval.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Erica Meltzer at 303-473-1355 or firstname.lastname@example.org