Boulder will move forward with a number of new requirements for people who walk their dogs off-leash on open space, but City Council members said they want to see more distinction made between violations by humans -- such as not picking up waste or walking into seasonal wildlife closure areas -- and violations by dogs like chasing wildlife.

The Open Space and Mountain Parks department came before the City Council on Tuesday night to seek support for "enhancements" to the green tag program that already have been endorsed by the Open Space Board of Trustees. The council's discussion stretched past midnight.

The department will return later this year with a formal ordinance to enact the new provisions and plans for a public education campaign.

Under the green tag program, which was initiated in 2006, dogs under the "voice-and-sight" control of their owners are allowed off-leash on certain trails. The dogs are required to display green tags that indicate their owners understand the rules of the program.

The program has remained largely unchanged since it was first implemented, and officials wanted to re-evaluate it.

A recent study also showed roughly half of the dogs in the program did not respond when called by their owners, though advocates for dogs on open space have questioned the study's methodology.

In hopes of helping to improve compliance, open space officials recommended both an increase in fines for violations and quick revocations of dogs' green tags.

Under the recommendations, the maximum fine for first-time offenders would increase from $50 to $100, and the maximum fine for second-time offenders would go from $100 to $200. The minimum fine for those who offend three or more times also would increase from $200 to $300.

In addition, not displaying a tag on off-leash dogs and failing to pick up after dogs could be violations under the program.

The city also recommended that dogs could have their green tags revoked after two violations instead of three, and just one conviction for aggressive dogs or dogs chasing wildlife could result a revocation.

Now, dogs can regain revoked tags after going through behavioral evaluations. But for revocation that resulted in violations stemming more from owner behavior -- not picking up after dogs, taking dogs into restricted areas -- the city also is proposing an alternative information program for owners to regain their tags.

Council members said they agreed that aggressive dogs should lose their green tags, but several council members balked at the idea of punishing dogs with revocation for something their owners did.

They wanted revocations to be limited to violations of voice and sight or aggressive or harassing behavior. For violations of open space regulations by dog owners, those council members preferred higher fines to encourage compliance.

Councilwoman Suzy Ageton asked whether officials would revoke the right to use open space of human users who don't follow the rules.

"This seems like a big change, and I wonder if we've thought through the implications," she said.

Open Space Director Mike Patton said he would work to incorporate that change into the ordinance that comes before council.

Patton reassured the council members that rangers would use discretion, and he said they were not looking for excuses to write tickets.

Patton said the department would use more signage and other outreach to let dog owners know about the rules.

"We don't want people to be caught because they don't know the rules," Patton said. "That's not a system we're interested in."

Councilman Macon Cowles expressed frustration with owners whose dogs can't follow the rules and said he would favor a test for dogs before they could be off-leash.

"Our assumption that a dog can come when called and in the face of the temptation of wildlife is at the heart of the program, but we don't test for that," he said. "It seems to me that the green tag program has become a free-for-all."