A couple of weeks ago I sent an open letter to four agencies in town, including the City Commission and the Bozeman Ranger District. It’s been passed on to other agencies already so I consider it open. If you need a template to write to your city agencies, please feel free to use this.
I generally send out a yearly letter, and I keep hoping for a more responsible dog community, where ALL dogs and their people can have access to town and the trails undisturbed by out of control dogs and owners that don’t care. City’s don’t know there are problems unless they are given information on what is really going on.
I will continue to be an advocate for responsible dog families who are trying to do the right thing. And I will forever be an advocate for dogs that need to get out and about and can’t because of unmanaged environments.
Cheers and happy reading! Nancy
My past letters to the City Commission have been in regards to dogs, specifically, management in town, and on the nearby front country trails. I would like to expand that this year.
While Bozeman continues to make magazine headlines as one of the Top 10 Most Dog Friendly Places, many people that live here see it a bit differently. It is definitely a dog town that boasts almost 200 acres of official off leash open space, trails that go through town that allow dogs on leash, and two mountain ranges with unlimited trails for hiking with your dog. On paper this is amazing.
But the reality is, dogs are off leash almost every place in town, not just in designated areas, they are off leash on ‘dogs must be leashed trails’, and even running around in areas where dogs aren’t even allowed, Gallatin Recreation Area/Ponds for example. There is not one single place you can go in Bozeman and be guaranteed a safe leash walk with your own dog, without an off leash dog coming into your space. This applies from Main street to the mountains.
Is it a war zone? No. Is there a big problem that is causing conflict on a daily basis? Yes.
Because there is a lack of enforcement, the culture in Bozeman is ‘off leash and deal with it’. Bozeman is in fact growing an irresponsible dog owner population. The dog park mentality of “take a dog off leash and let them run whether they are under voice control or not”, has seeped out into town, City Parks, GVLT trails, Forest Service trails, and beyond.
It is common for off leash dogs to run up to strangers, baby strollers, other dogs, dogs on leash with elderly handlers, children, service dogs that are working, picnickers, wild life, etc. And there is rarely an apology, explanation, or even acknowledgment from the off leash dog’s owner. Why? Because ‘rules for off leash dogs’ in Bozeman has never been clearly defined, and the lack of enforcement allows this ‘owner behavior’ to not only continue but to flourish.
This summer I have purposefully gotten out more often. There is always a pulse to a community, I wanted to really get the pulse for the dog community, more so than just through my training business. I work with on average, 400+ clients a year, but there are many more dog owners in Bozeman, and I have a sense of curiosity.
I have been walking the various GVLT trails everyday all summer, they are great trails and because they are supposed to build a better community, what better place to walk, right? I have either walked with one of my dogs or a client’s dog. I have been the only one on leash. The only other dogs on leash are my clients walking with me. I have had numerous dogs run into my space uninvited with unapologetic owners, two dogs that have stalked me, and too many dogs to count that showed up without owners nearby at all, they were from a house or neighborhood nearby and just cruising apparently. These trails are treated as an extension of the dog parks in town.
I have been in the Gallatin National Forest almost two to three times per week. I have never seen a dog on leash. In the FS information I picked up at their office, it states in very tiny print, dogs must be leashed to prevent chasing of wild life. Because this would be an almost impossible task to enforce, you would think that at the very least, managed and under voice control? I have passed dogs under really good owner voice control, but have passed many more that were either busy running around chasing wild life, or having a dog park experience in the back country.
Recently at the Gallatin Rec./Ponds we had two off leash dogs run right through our picnic space while they were manically chasing gophers. Their owners? Casually walking on the trail and never once offered an apology, or made a motion to get their dogs. This is common, not uncommon.
Not all dogs appreciate a dog park experience, in fact the majority of dogs do not. Yet our City is making a statement, simply by omission, that all dogs must be able to ‘deal’. We have responsible owners in town with lovely dogs, they pay taxes, their license fees, take excellent care of their dogs, but will never be able to use all of these great amenities because their dogs don’t want an off leash dog in their space. There is not a single place to walk where all dogs are in fact on leash except Lowe’s Hardware store. This is a sad statement.
I have received calls from some City Commissioners over the years, sat one two committees that include an Animal Control Officer, offered examples of programs that have become successful in other City’s similar to Bozeman. Not much has changed.
I would be open to talking and discussing possibilities and opportunities for a more responsible dog owner population. Our town should be dog friendly to everyone, not just off leash dog owners. If this is of interest, please let me know.
Nancy Tanner, CPDT-KSA