Council approves loosening leash laws

By Zach Hagadone
Reader Staff

Sandpoint Council members approved an amendment to City Code on May 19 allowing dogs on-leash at a number of public properties, including portions of City Beach.

The unanimous vote puts in place new policies allowing dogs on-leash — and always under the control of their handlers — on city rights of way; the Windbag and City Beach marinas; Lakeview and Hickory parks; the Sports Complex pathway, which winds through Travers, Centennial and Great Northern parks; and the City Beach pathway.

Of especial importance is a provision that dogs are limited to the paved pathways through the Sports Complex and City Beach, and only seasonally, from Sept. 15 through April 15. While dogs are allowed to be in the parking lots of either location year-round, they are not to be let loose on the grassy or sandy areas of those respective parks.

Per the policy, dogs are not allowed on childrens’ playground areas; tennis, basketball, pickleball or volleyball courts; nor sand-beach areas, skate parks or inside the fence at War Memorial Field.

Finally, dogs are permitted to roam off-leash on the Pend d’Oreille Bay Trail — known at City Hall as Humbird Mill Park — and the city-owned Mickinnick trailhead.

Sandpoint City Administrator Jennifer Stapleton noted that the ordinance change came as the result of a summer 2020 survey that drew about 800 respondents, the majority in favor of loosening leash restrictions — especially at City Beach, where community resource officers spend about one-third of their time enforcing animal control policies.

“As it stands at the beach right now, dogs aren’t allowed at the beach; we’re pretty actively, daily, enforcing that,” Stapleton said.

Councilmember Kate McAlister, who serves as president and CEO of the Greater Sandpoint Chamber of Commerce, expressed some trepidation about the new policy, especially as it relates to large events at the City Beach, such as Beerfest.

“People are ornery about their dogs — and I’m a dog owner,” she said. “I think community members are going to take advantage of this, I really do.”

McAlister added: “I don’t think we should pay [community resource officers] solely to make sure dog poop is cleaned up.”

Sandpoint Parks and Rec. Director Kim Woodruff assured the council that, “It’s a small minority that are not responsible; that gives the majority of proper, caring pet owners a bad rap.”

Stapleton said all dog policies remain status quo at City Beach until the fall, giving officials time to perform public outreach and education.

“I’m very pleased with our progressive but still cautious approach,” Woodruff said.

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