Dog walkers were advised this week that their pets must be leashed on Brookings sidewalks and boulevards – or they could face stiff fines. File photo
• Leaders review city’s leash laws
BROOKINGS – Free-roaming dogs are no longer welcome in Dakota Nature Park.
That was the message from City Manager Jeff Weldon this week as the Brookings council reviewed the city’s leash laws.
A spate of citizen complaints and a growing number of dog bites prompted the review at the council’s Tuesday study session, and on hand to discuss the matter was Police Chief Jeff Miller.
The city manager said that man’s best friend is persona non grata at the nature park, now under construction on the southeastern border of the city – unless he’s on a leash and under the full control of his owner.
“There is simply too much activity at the park now – by too many different age groups – to continue to permit (unleashed) dogs in the park,” he said.
The park ponds have been a favorite spot for sportsmen to train their hunting dogs – which requires that the animals be unrestrained.
“It’s a matter of public safety,” Weldon said.
The city’s leash law does permit dogs in all Brookings parks as long as they’re controlled on a leash at all times. (The ordinance also requires that owners clean up after their dogs.)
Dogs may not be left unattended in a park or recreation area, such as tied to a picnic table or tree.
Canine residents of the city will get their very own park next year, in an area south of the new Pheasants Nest detention pond.
The city is also working with sportsmen and other dog trainers who need a field area and water to work their animals. A city-owned wetlands area near the nature park is being considered for that purpose, and Parks, Recreation and Forestry Director Pete Colson said today the city is also working on plans to acquire or lease 40 acres northwest of the park for dog trainers.
Citizen complaints in recent weeks prompted the council’s review of city leash laws. A Brookings Register story earlier this summer – requested by Chief Miller – noted that dog owners increasingly are flouting the rules.
In a two-month period in late spring, the story reported, 14 different dogs had attacked or attempted to attack both humans and other dogs in Brookings County.
At the time, the police and animal control officers warned residents to keep their dogs retrained or “face the consequences.”
Those who violate the leash law and whose dog bites someone could find themselves on the losing end of a lawsuit. They will also be responsible for significant medical costs. But it’s more likely they’ll pay the city a stiff fine.
“A first-time citation for allowing a dog to run at large will cost the owner $10,” Miller told the council, “but that figure’s misleading. If the dog is unlicensed or doesn’t have its shots, there will be fees for that, and if we have to pick up a dog, there’s an impound fee.”
Most dog owners charged with leash law violations typically pay between $90 and $130, the chief said.
Councilor Tom Bezdichek quizzed the chief about control issues on the dog owner’s property.
“Say I’m out in my front yard and I’m watching my unleashed dog. Is that legal?” he asked.
“It is as long as the dog remains on your property,” the chief responded. “But the minute he steps onto the sidewalk or runs onto the boulevard (both of which are owned by the city), you’re in violation and can be cited.”
The chief reminded the council that sidewalks are a public right of way, and dog owners should pay special attention when approaching walkers with their animals, and especially when approaching someone who may be walking another dog.
The chief acknowledged that many of the recent citizen complaints are ticketable offenses for owners, but he pointed out that police or animal control officers have to use their discretion when handing out citations.
“They can’t be everywhere,” he said. “Most of the time they’re not there (on the scene) when the violation takes place, and they couldn’t go into court to testify about what specifically happened.”
In those cases they have to use their best judgment about what to do, Miller noted. He also said it’s incumbent on the person making the complaint to take the responsibility for pursuing the matter, even to testifying in court.
For more information or to report an animal running at large, contact Animal Control at 691-0201 or 697-6387.
Contact Ken Curley at kcurley@-brookingsregister.com.