Friday, August 2, 2013

Bellevue has the most strict dog law in valley

City’s leash law has been in effect since 1975

Express Staff Writer

    It doesn’t necessarily have to be a leash. It can be a chain or rope. But dogs in Bellevue, when not at home or with a caretaker, must be physically restrained when taken out in public. Otherwise, they and their owners are in violation of the law.
    Bellevue has the most strict dog law in the Wood River Valley, and it has been in effect since 1975.
    Is the law being enforced?
    “To the best of my knowledge, it is,” said Craig Eckles, the city’s planning director.
    However, enforcing dog laws is not an easy task, said Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter, whose agency has a contract to provide law enforcement services for the city of Bellevue.
    “It’s kind of like being in the right place at the right time,” Gunter said. “Our biggest issues are early in the morning or when people get home and turn their dogs out.”
    Other municipalities in the Wood River Valley require that dogs not at home or with a caretaker must either be on a leash, rope or chain or within voice control of their handler. Voice control is defined in all the various ordinances as within 10 feet.
    However, the city of Hailey has a special provision within its city code, requiring that dogs be on a leash or under physical control if at a city park or on school grounds.
    Bellevue first enacted its “on a leash law” in 1975. It prohibits dogs running at large or being a nuisance.
    Nearly the same language regarding dogs was used in a new Bellevue animal ordinance enacted in 2009. The new ordinance is 31 pages long and addresses other types of animals such as chickens and horses.
    Gunter acknowledged that dogs running at large are a problem both in Bellevue and Hailey. However, he said, “We don’t have near the complaints down there that we have up here.”
    Problems created by dogs at large include attacks on people or other animals, defecating where they’re not supposed to, getting into garbage, interfering with traffic and becoming a nuisance by barking excessively.
    Gunter said police in both Hailey and Bellevue make a concerted effort to enforce dog laws, but with their other police duties they can’t be spending the bulk of the day running down stray animals.
    He said irresponsible pet owners are the main cause of the problem.
    “We have some dogs that we’ve impounded several times and the owners just keep paying the impound fee and letting them run free again,” Gunter said.

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