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La Veta’s dog problem

by Darrell Arnold

LA VETA- There is one source of conflict that continues to generate multiple complaints to the La Veta Marshal’s office.  That source is the ubiquitous pet dog.

    For the most part, the complaints are of two varieties.  The first is people allowing their dogs to bark unabated and disturb their neighbors.  Marshal Willburn and his deputies can use the town’s nuisance ordinance to ticket the owners of the barking offenders.

    The second major complaint is about dogs running loose.

    Marshall Willburn says, "The only place dogs are allowed to run free are on the owner’s property.  Otherwise, dogs have to be on a leash no more than 10 feet long so that they are always under control of their owners."

    Recently, the town has received complaints about loose dogs threatening children walking to school or leashed dogs being walked by their owners.

    Though the Town of La Veta no longer has an animal control officer, Marshal Willburn and his two deputies continue to enforce the dog ordinance.  If we can’t catch them, we at least try to take their photographs and find the owners.

    "We know most of the dogs in town," says Marshal Willburn.  A lot of people turn their dogs out in the morning so they can run around a little bit. But that’s against the law.  I’ve been getting out early in the mornings and trying to round up some of those strays.  We are really going to start cracking down on those dog owners."

    Willburn explains the process.  "When a dog gets arrested, we have to keep it in the pound for five working days and give the owner a chance to come in and reclaim the dog.  We notify the owner.

    "They have to pay a $10 per day impound fee, then they will get a fine on top of that.  The fine is $30 for the first offense, $60 for the second offense, and $90 for a third offense plus a required mandatory court appearance.  Also, if the dog doesn’t have a tag, then they have to purchase that, too.  They are required to keep the dogs’ vaccinations up to date."

    After the five-day impoundment, the town can take control of the dog and try to find it another home.   In the past year, of the approximately 30 dogs that have been impounded, only one had to be euthanized, and that was because it was an aggressive dog that no one wanted to adopt.

    Marshal Willburn stresses that his office is not out to nail anyone.  "We try to help people.  If someone’s dog gets loose, and the owner lets us know and is actively looking for it, we’ll help them find the dog.  Usually, there’s not a ticket issued in those instances.

    "The ones we have to deal with are the dogs that don’t get claimed during that five-day impoundment.  Those owners are the ones who deserve to be charged and fined.  They have to step up and be responsible pet owners."