That dog’s bark may be worse than his bite, but owners are going to have to leash him so no one ever has to find out.
On Tuesday, Spokane County commissioners were briefed on an upcoming leash emphasis patrols at county parks and Conservation Futures property to make sure pets are properly restrained.
“This is a great problem to have,” Doug Chase, director of parks and recreation, told county commissioners at their Tuesday morning CEO gathering. “Usage has increased exponentially. We’re really excited to offer this and hope to have some positive results.”
As the weather has warmed up and hikers and mountain bikers have begun to more heavily use Spokane Valley-area
Conservation Futures attractions like Iller Creek, Antoine Peak, the Saltese Uplands and the Liberty Lake Park trails, there has been an uptick in complaints of recreationists encountering dogs off of leashes or chasing wildlife.
Bryant Robinson, Spokane County park ranger, told commissioners, “We’re having some issues...there has been quite a dramatic increase in complaints.”
Robinson said the county has acquired $144,000 in state grant money in order to conduct emphasis patrols that will see animal-control officers, sheriff’s deputies and volunteers approaching folks with pets in trailhead parking lots and out on the trails themselves, either via walking, bicycles or off-road vehicles.
The point, however, is not to write tickets but to provide information.
“It will be an educational emphasis,” he said. “We want people to know about the leash laws. We want folks to comply.”
Nicole Montano, operations manager for Spokane County Animal Protection Service, said it’s natural for pet owners to want their animals to experience the great outdoors, but not at the expense of wildlife on public parklands.
“Everyone wants their dogs to romp and run in the woods,” she said. “But it causes problems when they chase wildlife or bikers or hikers.”
She added that there was an instance of a bicyclist breaking his leg attempting to get away from a dog on one of the county’s trails.
While there are no plans to issue fines, it could happen “depending upon what we’re witnessing,” Montano said. In addition to educational materials, officers will also giving away free leashes and making sure dogs are licensed and immunized for rabies.
A dog without a license carries a $200 fine for owners. Off-leash canines can result in an $87 fine, along with not having a rabies shot or threatening humans or other animals.
Commissioner Mark Richard – who said he’s had some “peculiar” incidents with dog owners while at county recreational areas – said he supported the move. He has run into encounters with threatening individuals who have had an inability to control their animals.
“This could help avoid a bad situation,” he said. “People are passionate about their animals, and some folks don’t take kindly to being told how to manage their pets.
Montano said that those conducting the patrols will be paired up.
“We don’t one them going out there alone,” she said.
Spokane County has over 12,000 acres of recreational parkland.
Patrols will occur in seven park properties over the next several months, with exact times to be undisclosed:
- Antoine Peak Conservation Area, June 16
- Liberty Lake Park, June 17
- Dishman Hills Natural Area, June 23
- Liberty Lake and Saltese Uplands Conservation Area, June 24
- Slavin Conservation Area, June 30
- Bear Lake Regional Park, July 7
- Iller Creek Conservation Area, July 8