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Outrageous leash law fines

Tuesday, November 20, 2007 Leave a Comment

Last month, I took my 18-month old son and our dog to Wash Park. We ate lunch at the picnic tables near Gramercy Lake, and then I tied the dog to a picnic table while we went to play at the playground.

When I returned, there was a strange man sitting next to my dog. As I strapped my son into his stroller, the man peppered me with questions about my dog. I untied her from the table, and he called her over to him. She went.

Meanwhile, I struggled to get the stroller through the muddy ground to the sidewalk, not more than 20 feet away. As soon as we got to the pavement, I called our dog, and she came to me, and I put her leash back on.

Immediately, I was approached by two strange men on mountain bikes. They demanded, “Is this your dog?”

Now, picture this: I am alone in the park, with one strange man to my left, and two strange men to my right, all asking about my dog. My one thought was to get my son out of there.

“What’s your name?” demanded the man on a bike, pulling out his ticket book and beginning to write, and I realized he was a dog cop. He never identified himself, but told me, “I don’t give warnings.”

So I got home, wrote out a check for the $50 fine, and sent it off.

Last week, it came back to me for underpayment. I owe an additional $30 in fines. $10 for bureau costs, okay, but $20 for “victim assistance”? What is that?

I understand and support the leash law, and I believe I was in reasonable compliance of it.

What I have trouble with is the enforcement of this law. I believe enforcement of this leash law is a very profitable source of revenue for the City of Denver. $80 for having my dog tied up to a picnic table is outrageous.

First of all, The Division of Animal Control says on their website the following: “Our code investigators prefer voluntary compliance and finding positive solutions over enforcement of the law.”

In my particular situation, this was most definitely not the case. The code investigator did not make any attempt whatsoever to find a positive solution, even when I stated that I was in compliance with the law.

In fact, the code investigator never once identified himself; he did not tell me specifically what I had done wrong; and he stated to me that he did not give warnings, only tickets.

Are dogs allowed in Wash Park?

What is the purpose of the leash law: to discourage noncompliance, or to raise revenue through high fines?

Are the officers allowed to use any personal judgment in issuing tickets? Traffic policemen are allowed to, and frequently do. Officer Martinez/Romero (neither of them ever identified themselves as officers) informed me that he was not allowed to issue a warning.

How are the officers reviewed in job performance? How are they compensated?

I have a court date, and I am still contemplating whether it’s worth my time to go. If I don’t, a bench warrant will be issued for my arrest.

Don’t we have better things to do with our tax dollars than prosecute leash law violators?

___

P.S. Stapleton's City Councilman is Michael B. Hancock.

9 comments »

  • Penny said:  

    You know, part of the reason security is so gruff when it comes to dog ticketing (also pedestrian ticketing) is that you are not required to carry id on your person, and can therefore, if you do not have your id on you, give a false name and address to the officer.

    Thus, they try to scare you into immediate submission so that this is not an issue for them.

  • Liz said:  

    Yes! He asked me for all my information twice, to try to catch me in a lie, I'm sure... well, I definitely thought about giving false information. OK, I did use my maiden name.

  • Liz said:  

    OK, my update and then I'll put this behind me. They made me come to Dog Court yesterday, where I spent all afternoon waiting, just to have the D.A. advise me to just never take my kid and my dog to Wash Park at the same time. See, tying the dog up while we play on the playground is illegal. Technically, I must be holding her leash at all times. I pleaded "No contest" and they lowered my fine by half.

    After court costs, it was $10 less than if they had just cashed my stupid check when I mailed it in.

  • Liz said:  

    Oh, and our city councilman, Michael Hancock, is too busy with real issues to respond to leash law violation complaints. I guess I can respect that.

  • Anonymous said:  

    This Martinez tool just gave me a ticket too. I also didn't have my I.D. on me and looked at him like he was joking when he asked for my info. Unfortunately I was scared to give false info because I wasn't sure how it would all go down. I'm fighting the ticket, though. $80 is an outrageous amount. He threatened me with $460 in fines. This city will nickel and dime its way out of the recession. I'm moving.

  • anonymous said:  

    Just got stopped by Martinez at Riverfront park, where I live. He had another tool with him who was laughing and making the situation worse. By the end he said he would knock me out if i stepped in his circle...whatever that means. They were a complete joke and gave me $505 in fines...$80 leash fine, $100 rabies vacc (which was upstairs in my bldg.) $75 license fine, also upstairs and finally a $250 fine for spaying records, which were also upstairs. I'll admit i was extremely upset and may have said some unkind things but $505 is ridiculous!!! and the fact that they were laughing made it that much worse...

  • Anonymous said:  

    The fines might be high, but would not be an issue if dog owners in Denver had control of their pets. My children have been run upon and knocked down by unleashed dogs twice.

  • Anonymous said:  

    Im with you. The law is clear if you cant abide by it then you have to pay the fine. Not everyone likes dogs as most dog owners seem to think. I think the city should charge more period.

  • Danielle said:  

    I think it is absolutely ridiculous to charge $80 for an off leash ticket and to those of you that "don't like dogs" all I can say is you have issues. I don't let my dog go up to everyone and they are off leash, enjoying their walk. I just got 2 off leash tickets that equal $160 and another $100 fine for not having my 14yr old dog up to date on rabies, because the vet said it isn't healthy to vaccinate an old dog. There were 2 guys, one was silent the whole time, the other one was clearly having some kind of power trip and was antagonistic and very rude. I told them they should be writing tickets to people that are abusive, neglectful and cruel to their dogs,not to a nice woman walking her dogs on an empty street.