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Confusion dogs law enforcement at wildlife area

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Sunday, Aug. 26, 2018 8:09 PM

A couple of weeks ago, a Colorado Parks and Wildlife officer informed me that dogs are to be “on leash” at Pastorius Reservoir. The officer provided a lengthy lecture. Two days later, a La Plata County Sheriff’s Office deputy said he knew of no such rule. The confusion stemmed from an encounter with an unrestrained pit bull. (I’m afraid of pit bulls. Plus, my dog is a puppy.) The pit bull owner said Pastorius wasn’t posted for leash laws. I checked, and it’s not. Bottom line, I think our officers should know the rules. Moreover, the rules should be posted. What is the dog policy at Pastorius? And if rules are not posted, is it OK for dogs to be off leash? Sign me, Kay Nine

Seeking legal opinion from humor columnist is like asking a tourist for the best restaurant in town.

Not that cluelessness ever stopped Action Line from spouting Brilliant Utterances on Law and Legislation, otherwise known as B.U.L.L. for short.

So let’s postulate on non-pastoral pastimes at Pastorius.

Jurisdiction will be the main issue. What body of law covers this body of water?

The reservoir south of town is a designated State Wildlife Area, one of about 350 in Colorado.

Although the 92-acre site is located within La Plata County, Pastorius is managed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, which has distinct rules and regulations.

This fact was uncovered after Action Line did some painstaking investigative reporting, which consisted of pulling up the Park and Wildlife’s website and clicking on “wildlife areas” on the drop-down menu.

Perhaps the Pulitzer Prize committee will consider such journalistic excellence during its upcoming deliberations.

In the meantime, Action Line will settle for the Pullet Surprise – which is Mrs. Action Line’s roasted chicken dinner, prepared in secret and served with a lovely garden salad.

Be that as it may, Colorado Parks and Wildlife is crystal clear about Pastorius’ murky waters and other wildlife areas.

The 2018 Colorado State Recreational Lands brochure lists activities that are PROHIBITED. The word was printed in all caps, so this must be serious.

It’s against the law “to allow dogs, cats or domestic pets to run at large (not on a leash), except dogs used while hunting, while training hunting dogs or at CPW-authorized field trials.”

Furthermore, if you bring your dog to a state wildlife area, it “shall be under control and on a leash not exceeding six (6) feet in length.”

County residents might still think that dogs can freely roam. However, county regulations prohibit dogs at-large, defined as dogs “off the premises of the owner and not under physical restraint or immediate command of the owner.”

But the “immediate command” exception doesn’t matter. Pastorius is a state wildlife area. Dogs must be on a leash. The wildlife officer was correct. The sheriff’s deputy was, ahem, not so much. Ditto for the pit bull owner.

As for the unposted dog rules, that also doesn’t matter.

There’s a long-standing legal principle – “ignorantia juris non excusat” – which is Latin for “ignorance of the law is no excuse.”

Therefore, when it comes to reservoir dogs, “ixnay on unleashia ooch-pay.”

And that’s the best legal advice you’re going to get by a dam site.

Email questions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can ask for anonymity if you your bark is worse than your bite.

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