March 2, 2018
Message from the Mayor: Alta Dog Licensing

Dear Fellow Residents and Visitors,

I have heard from a number of you regarding the town’s dog policy and our recent conversations about updating that policy.  I think there is some anxiety and confusion about our intent, so I decided to write about the issue in this month’s newsletter.  I certainly understand that the issue is an emotional and important one.

Here is where things stand:

  • The Town is entrusted by Salt Lake County and Salt Lake City to protect the quality of the watershed in Alta. That is why dogs are licensed by the Town.
  • The Town’s ordinances limit the total number of permits to 15% of our census population (=57) but we currently have approximately 85 long-term permits outstanding. There is, therefore, a moratorium on new long-term permits.
  • The town council controls our ordinances and I have suggested a revision so that the Town of Alta complies with its own laws. My general suggestion is that every household in Alta should be able to have a dog permit, but there are many details to work out.
  • In addition, we have not been complying with a United States Forest Service Forest Order prohibiting dogs on USFS property. The District Ranger pointed out this fact during my first meeting with her and often since. She has suggested that she could consider issuing a new Forest Order that is more generous, but the Town will need to designate areas from which dogs are excluded – the USFS simply won’t agree to allow us to continue our current “boundary to boundary, off-leash” practice – and to make it easy for the public at large to know at a glance that a particular dog is licensed by Alta.  These are additional dimensions of our policy that I’ve asked the town council to grapple with.  I think we can negotiate an agreement with the USFS that includes keeping dogs from Albion Basin and perhaps a few other sensitive areas and having them wear identifying collars or vests.

I am working on your behalf.  This issue, like many in Alta, is complicated and touches on many values.  I want our residents who want a dog permit to be able to have one.  I want no one to violate federal or local law. I want to protect the environment and our wildlife. I am confident that by coming together as a community we can find a set of policies that does these things.


Harris Sondak, Mayor