My Turn: Town needs stricter at-large dog law

Nick De Fiori
Special to the Sun

TRUCKEE, Calif. – After reading comments on Sierra Sun’s Facebook page that were made in response to my “A Dog is Still A Dog” article and reading another article submitted to the Sierra Sun by a reader about irresponsible dog owners, it seems clear the town’s current at-large ordinance is too lenient and isn’t being be adequately enforced.

Mountain communities have been known to have lenient dog ordinances that are forgivingly enforced. I don’t know exactly why that is. Maybe it’s due to the difficulty in enforcing more stringent laws because there are so many animal owners who think the world is their dog’s kennel, simply because their yards aren’t fenced? Or maybe it’s because mountain towns get strong push back from residents who think that living in a dog-friendly community means there should be little, if any, restrictions on what they can and can’t do with their dogs.

I don’t know, but what I do know is it’s not acceptable for a municipality to have inadequate and/or inadequately enforced dog ordinances. Doing so puts the safety of people and their dogs at risk. Citizens should be able to walk down the street without having to worry about dogs being able to wander into the street under any circumstances. It’s not safe for anybody.

If people want change they can start by reporting any and all violations of Truckee’s at-large ordinance to law enforcement and request timely enforcement similar to any other public safety hazard.

To help familiarize you with Truckee’s at-large law, below is a summary from the town’s website. Seems pretty weak. I can’t understand how anyone could think that keeping a dog within sight and voice control is in anyway sufficient to protect public safety or the safety of the dog.

Q: Is there a leash law in Truckee?

A: The only location in Truckee where there is a strict leash law is at Truckee Regional Park between the months of May and October. There is an At Large Prohibited ordinance in Truckee, which means that you must have both immediate voice and visual control over your dog. Dogs roaming the neighborhood would be an At Large Prohibited violation, in which a citation may be issued. When you are walking your dog, we recommend using a leash for both the safety of you and your dog.

For comparison, below is Mammoth’s at-large ordinance:

“It is unlawful for any person owning, harboring, or having the care, custody or possession of any dog within the town limits of Mammoth Lakes to allow such dog to run at large. All such dogs shall be kept securely fastened by a chain, rope or leash unless securely confined within private property legally controlled by the person in possession of the dog. Further, any dog off the premises of its owner, or the person charged with the care, custody or possession of the dog, shall be presumed to be at large unless it is securely fastened to a rope, chain or leash not exceeding six feet in length and is under the immediate physical control of a competent person. The provisions of this section shall not apply to any dog while being trained in an obedience class or being exhibited at a dog show or obedience trial or being trained for or used for bona fide hunting purposes, or that is engaged in the herding, grazing or control of livestock; provided, however, that such dog is under the immediate vocal control of a competent person while so engaged.”

If existing dog ordinances are inadequate (I would say Truckee’s falls into that category) and fail to be changed or adequately enforced, then it’s our responsibility to hold elected officials and the authorities they employ accountable. Hopefully it won’t take someone getting seriously injured or a lawsuit for the town of Truckee to act.

Nick De Fiori is a Truckee resident.

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