|Los Alamos Rewards Responsible Animal Ownership
A victory was won for responsible dog ownership when the Los Alamos County Council voted 7-0 to adopt a new animal control ordinance which focuses on using public education and clear terminology to improve animal ownership in the community. The county has dropped dog licensing, repealed an animal limit law and created innovative programs to allow for off-leash dog training.
The process began three years ago in June of 2003 when the county council decided to establish an Animal Control Task Force in response to citizen complaints about loose dogs and owners who did not clean up after their animals. The task force was composed of county staff, a county councilor, the police chief, dog trainers and concerned citizens.
The Animal Control Task Force conducted a series of public meetings, placed newspaper ads and stuffed flyers in utility bills to solicit input from the public on the issues being addressed. The panel concluded that licenses were unnecessary because there was low compliance, they were only purchased by those who were already responsible animal owners, and the program cost the county more to administer than it brought in.
Limits were discarded as not serving the best interest of the community. In their research, the task force found that limits had been declared unconstitutional in several states and were unequally enforced. Instead the members focused on developing clear, consistent nuisance guidelines and stiff penalties for violators.
When asked why the task force was so successful, Los Alamos Dog Obedience Club member Marsha Boggs said, “The most important thing is to have as much input from the public as you can, take their concerns seriously and don’t get defensive. Have your facts in order and do your homework, bring logical arguments and use clear terminology.”
A final, important part of the ordinance was an effective leash law. The new law allows for off-leash dog training in specified areas, and establishes a clear definition of verbal control to allow those who have engaged in extensive training to have their dogs off-leash. Dogs and cats are required to be on leash at trail heads and in most public areas.
Ms. Boggs was also instrumental in the formation of the Los Alamos Sport and Working Dog Association (LASWDA), a combination of AKC clubs, obedience clubs, working dog clubs, law enforcement and search and rescue dogs. By working together these groups have taken the lead in conducting much of the public education needed to make this ordinance a success. They also conduct demonstrations of obedience, agility, search and rescue and other working dog activities to educate the public about these rewarding activities.