As many know, we had a recent incident in our town where some dogs that weren’t fully under control got into a fight. While I am glad to confirm that everybody—and every dog—involved in this incident is ok, it is a case-in-point for many of the issues the town council has been discussing with regard to where we should allow dogs to be in Alta, and whether Alta dogs should be on-leash.
The values I see as clearly at stake as we converge on a policy after these months of hard work include the safety of people; the happiness of dog owners and potential dog owners; watershed protection; reduction of conflicts between dogs and wildlife; the physical and mental health of Alta-permitted dogs; relationships with partner agencies; our businesses; and respect for the rule of law. I think elected officials should consider the values that matter to them and their constituents in particular instances and make the wisest choices we can.
At our last discussion, I suggested that Albion Basin be off-limits to dogs. Other town council members proposed that the area be more specifically defined, which I thought was a good idea. For the upcoming work session on Tuesday, June 5th at 4:00 pm, I have drafted a list of areas for discussion that includes important trails and waterways. Keeping dogs off our most popular trails will, I think, protect people and will help Salt Lake City Public Utilities and the United States Forest Service – and our marshals – do their jobs. Keeping dogs as far away from the water as our building code demands homes to be will protect water quality. I look forward to discussions that lead us to the right list.
My draft also addresses our policy on leashes. I have drafted a general no-off-leash clause because if a dog is off-leash it can be out of its handler’s control. Fights with other dogs, injuries to people, conflicts with wildlife, defecation that is not seen and not cleaned up, and entry into sensitive wetland areas are more likely when dogs are off-leash. Alta is, I understand, the one community in Salt Lake County that allows dogs to be off-leash outside of designated dog parks, but we are not immune to the risks that off-leash dogs present. I anticipate a lively discussion about whether the town council of Alta agrees that we need a leash law.
In any government or organizational decision some people will get more of what they initially want, and some will get less. I think the important thing in coming to a collective decision is to focus on a shared set of underlying interests, rather on a set of specific positions or demands. I encourage everyone to think through not just their own point of view, but to be open to those of our neighbors and friends.
As an example of what this kind of approach can achieve, I’ll share a story about how we grappled successfully with a set of complex issues regarding emergency services in Alta this past winter. Clinics in Little Cottonwood Canyon were having some difficulty working with the Salt Lake Valley Emergency Communications Center and the United Fire Authority to obtain needed services efficiently. I convened a meeting that included the interested parties and we worked through what each agency needed to be able to accomplish its tasks most effectively. By focusing on shared goals and by seeing others’ points of view, this group was successfully able to revise how emergency services in our community would be delivered.
When it comes to dogs, I think many would be surprised by the variety of opinions amongst us on most questions. Nonetheless, I am confident that by working together and thinking broadly we can achieve a result that will satisfy most people’s most important goals.