City seeking comment on proposed leash law

Photo submitted Dogs play off-leash with their owners at the Happy Tails Dog Park in New Ulm. It would be the only park in New Ulm where dogs could be off-leash under regulations being considered by the New Ulm City Council.

NEW ULM — The Parks and Recreation Department is seeking public comment on a proposed amendment to New Ulm’s leash laws.

A survey is available on the city’s website asking for opinions on how dogs and cats should be leashed.

“The Park and Recreation Commission desires to reinstate the leash law in city parks,” Director Tom Schmitz said. “The reason for that is because we have a designated off-leash park now — we have a dog park where dogs can run off leash.”

The survey consists of four main questions on whether dogs or cats should be leashed in city parks, length of leash, whether they should be leashed on any public property and when outdoors on private property.

Currently, city ordinance prohibits dogs and cats from “running at large,” but the only city properties that specifically require a leash or a pet to somehow under direct control is on city trails.

“Dogs and cannot run at large, unless they are on a leash or under the direct control of an accompanying person,” Schmitz said.

Another complication is the vagueness of “under direct control” when referring to methods other than a leash, such as voice commands.

Schmitz shared some preliminary results to the survey, which has 406 responses as of Friday, Dec. 22. The following results may not reach 100 percent due to rounding to the nearest whole number.

– 78 percent of respondents think dogs and cats should be on a leash in a city park whereas 28 percent say no.

– The second question assumes respondents answered yes to number one, otherwise it asks them to skip it.

It asks about the maximum leash length. Of the two proposed lengths, 66 percent of respondents favored a 6-foot maximum, 29 percent favored 10 feet and 5 percent chose other.

Parks and Rec chose the 6-foot option because that is the maximum allowed at state parks, Schmitz said.

“So we feel 6-foot may be appropriate to be a maximum leash length to be consistent with state parks,” Schmitz said.

– The majority of respondents, 76 percent, said dogs and cats should be leashed when on any public property including sidewalks and streets, with 24 percent disagreeing.

– The fourth question asks if pets should be leashed while outdoors on private property, unless it is fenced or has another type of containment system. The majority, 58 percent, said no to leashing on private land.

There were two more questions about residency and asking for additional comments. According to that 87 percent of respondents so far live in New Ulm city limits.

Schmitz argued that the leash laws need to be reinstated for the safety of pets, pet owners and passersby.

The issue has gone before the city council twice in 2017 and been tabled both times due to a lack of agreement between council members.

It will be discussed again on Jan. 16, this time with data from the survey and a presentation from Animal Control Officer Keith Anderson.

The survey will be available at ci.new-ulm.mn.us under the announcements heading until Jan. 2. There are also paper copies available at the New Ulm Recreation Center, Civic Center, Community Center, Library and City Hall.

Connor Cummiskey can be emailed at ccummiskey@nujournal.com.

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