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Glenwood backs off pet limits

Dennis Webb
Post Independent Staff

When Glenwood Springs City Council members weren’t wrestling with bears last week, they were all but chasing their tails on the subject of cats and dogs.

Fresh off a discussion of how to address the problem of too many bears in town (see related story), they revisited the question of whether some people have too many pets. Their final conclusion was to reverse plans to limit pet ownership to three dogs and three cats per household. Instead, council agreed to work with pet advocates to see if alternative measures could be followed to resolve pet-related disputes among neighbors.

“We’re on your side. We want a solution that works for everyone,” said Nancy Williams, owner of The Shaggy Dog grooming salon in Glenwood Springs.

Council began looking at passing new animal restrictions late last year based in part on a wolf-hybrid attack that left a child injured earlier in the year, and a complaint about someone having 25 dogs in the Oasis Creek neighborhood. In December, council decided against passing a wolf-hybrid ban, partly out of concern over whether there is any way to prove whether a dog is part wolf.

As for pet numbers, council originally envisioned limiting numbers to a combined total of three animals, cats and dogs combined. Council member Chris McGovern said that number increased to six total animals only as an inadvertent result of how the draft ordinance was worded. Council approved a first reading of the ordinance in December. But council backed off any cap on pet numbers after hearing last week from people who do animal rescue and foster care work.

A cap “unfairly penalizes the Good Samaritans trying to make a difference and encourages the local law enforcement to discriminate,” Williams said.

Council member Bruce Christensen also worried about possible discriminatory enforcement. He said he originally supported caps as a way that police could crack down on problems, yet look the other way in the case of homes that house more than the maximum number of pets but don’t present a problem. He later had second thoughts about that idea.

“I have a problem passing an ordinance that we know we don’t want to enforce in 90 percent of the cases,” he said.

Cindy Sadlowski, who runs the Street Cat Coalition, a spay and neuter program for cats, said many rescue and foster homes for cats average six to 10 of the animals apiece. The problem isn’t those homes, but the single, unspayed female cat that gets loose and has kittens that later also reproduce, she said.

“We’re pulling them off the street as fast as we can,” Sadlowski said.

Limiting pet numbers would hamper that effort, she said. “Don’t penalize the animals. They’ll just be ignored; people will be afraid to feed them.”

Laurie Raymond, co-owner of the High Tails pet supply store in West Glenwood and a board member for the Colorado Animal Rescue (CARE) shelter in Spring Valley, agreed.

“I understand the desire to have a simple solution, but simplistic doesn’t get you anywhere,” she said.

Christensen shared Raymond and Sadlowski’s concern about what a pet cap could do to rescue efforts.

“We have a tremendous shortage of space for stray animals right now,” he said.

Council members agreed to Raymond’s suggestion that she and other pet advocates form a mediation board that could resolve problems and suggest solutions, including creating a list of expectations for responsible pet ownership.

Council member Joe O’Donnell said the pet cap wasn’t aimed at responsible pet owners, but those causing trouble. The city had no way to respond to a complaint about the high number of dogs at the Oasis Creek residence, said O’Donnell, who lives in that neighborhood. O’Donnell couldn’t get anyone else on council to second his motion to pass the limits on pet numbers, but some of his fellow council members sympathized with his position.

“My only concern is if people were reasonable to start with, we wouldn’t have had a problem,” said McGovern. She hopes a mediation process can resolve some of the ongoing concerns.

Mayor Larry Emery said exploring mediation could be a good interim step toward resolving the pet problem, but added, “No matter what pet ordinance we come up with, a good portion of the town is going to be unhappy.”


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