July 31, 2018
Message from the Mayor: August 2018

Many thanks to those who have been working hard this summer to enhance Alta residents’ and visitors’ experience alike. SR 210 is getting much improved, the Wasatch Wildflower Festival was a success, the summer program pilot has been doing well, and Alta is making progress on being invited to join the Central Wasatch Commission. Thanks to all our partners including UDOT, ACE, Friends of Alta, the Cottonwood Canyons Foundation, Alta Ski Lifts, and Chris McCandless and Ralph Becker from the CWC.

I write again about our dog license situation. I want to give you my thoughts about where we are and how we got here.

  • When I was elected, the Town’s staff let me know that after being sworn in I immediately would have to renew 30 temporary annual licenses. I decided to make the long-term temporary licenses seasonal, with a winter season and a summer season (switching on November 1st and May 1st), to make them really “temporary.” For the handful of year-round resident families with canine members, we could issue two seasonal licenses per year.
  • Our animal control ordinance also creates 57 regular licenses that all get renewed automatically so long as the fees are paid. The rub, here, is that as of last January, we had not only these 57 licenses in effect, but also the 30 temporary annual licenses—which is 30 more licenses than our ordinance allows.
  • I think we need to match our laws with our practices. Logically, we have two choices: we can decrease the number of dogs or increase the cap. It seems obvious to me that we need to increase the cap.
  • Of course, we must address watershed protection, too, as the reason there is any issue with dogs in Little Cottonwood Canyon, like in other canyons, is that it is a watershed. As a watershed, the Salt Lake Valley Health Department has jurisdiction over water quality and, ultimately, dogs in the canyons. As the owner of the water, SLC Public Utilities has jurisdiction, too.
  • I have spoken to anyone who has approached me seeking a conversation, and each of the proposals I have suggested has sought to balance the various values at stake. I am sure that some of my suggestions were more workable than others. I am working especially hard on temporary license holders’ behalf to get them legal licenses. I have also heard from people who don’t have dogs but who are concerned about water quality, wildlife, and the safety of people.
  • Before they expired at the end of April, the Town Council voted to extend all the temporary licenses to the end of July to give us time to work out the details of a new animal control ordinance. At the Town Council meeting in July, however, the Council unfortunately did not vote on increasing the number of licenses beyond the 57. Therefore, I am sorry to say, all temporary licenses expired on July 31. I am hoping the Town Council will soon address this problem.

To confuse matters, in a related but distinct issue, the United States Forest Service District Ranger informed me in January that there is a Forest Order prohibiting dogs on USFS property in the watersheds, including in Alta. As the council agreed to do in a recent meeting, we are essentially separating this subject from the issue of our dog licenses.

I know this have been going on too long. I realize how emotional this process is. I will end by affirming that we need to do something so that the number of Town of Alta-permitted dogs matches our law. Some community members seem to think I should ignore what the ordinance says and issue licenses above the legal limit. I do not agree, and I think that anyone who wants us to violate our ordinance should explain why that is a better approach than changing it. Some community members seem to want to keep the number of licenses at or close to 57 and not allow additional licenses beyond that number. I do not agree with that approach either and I think that anyone who wants to decrease the number of dogs should explain a fair way to decide which dogs should lose their licenses. I think we can make common sense changes to our law to accommodate the reality of how many dogs we have.