County updates dog code, doesn’t adopt property maintenance code

By John Finefrock
Staff Writer

The Archuleta County commissioners unanimously voted to pass a resolution that changes the fee schedule for violations regarding nuisance dogs and vicious dogs, among other things.

At the commissioners’ regular meeting on Tuesday, County Attorney Todd Weaver presented the update to the county’s code pertaining to dogs and their owners, and outlined the changes that were made, noting the language hadn’t been updated in almost 20 years.

“This came at the request of the sheriff’s office to revise our dog ordinance, which again is rather dated,” Weaver said, adding, “Really the only major changes was an update to the fines. I believe back in 2002 it was a range for the offenses and the sheriff’s office wanted just a [flat] dollar amount for each offense, increasing after each offense, and then the other change was basically requiring the clean up of feces.”

“This has nothing to do with taking [dogs] in,” said Archuleta County Sheriff Rich Valdez, adding,”What this has to do with is if we have a dog at large, we can write the person a ticket. What was happening previous is the fine, penalty was scheduled between $100 to $1,000 and the deputy had the authorization to write a penalty assessment for $1,000 if he wanted to. This doesn’t give us that opportunity now, this sets a flat fee.”

The resolution notes that, “These penalties shall be imposed with regard to the violator and not the subject Dog.”

Valdez noted that this change, coupled with the dog owner’s requirement to clean up feces, are the two main changes with the updated resolution and that all impoundment fees, per the sheriff’s office contract with the local humane society, have stayed the same.

“[We’ve added] the requirement to clean up after your dog if it defecates on public or private property, other than your own, and to make it unlawful where dog feces has accumulated so much the neighbors are starting to smell it,” explained Weaver.

International Property Maintenance Code

Up for vote at Tuesday’s meeting was to adopt, or not, the 2015 version of the International Property Maintenance Code.

The International Property Maintenance Code is really what it sounds like,” Weaver said. “It is about maintaining existing residential, nonresidential buildings in a manner that ensures public health, safety and welfare. So, it’s making sure that there’s proper ventilation, that there’s proper plumbing, that there’s proper heating and cooling, where applicable.”

“We can’t tell people how to live and we can’t choose how they live either,” Maez said. “So, if it’s a basic person that — it’s their own property, their own house, would it affect them?”

“It could,” Weaver said. “Again, there’s always two pieces. There’s the code itself and there’s enforcement of the code, and there’s always discretion to use the county’s enforcement authority when it comes to applying it to certain situations or not, there is that flexibility in it. Really, it’s just to make sure that living spaces and even nonresidential structures are safe.”

“I’m a little hesitant with this because I would really recommend a very easy discretion with this on people because I know people want to live the way they want to live, too, and sometimes, I think other people trying to depict on how other people should live I think is not a good thing either,” Maez said.

Weaver explained that it simplifies some enforcement for the county and that instead of having to get a court order to have people comply, “this allows a faster reaction to dangerous situations.”

Commissioner Steve Wadley said he didn’t want to turn the county commissioners “into some kind of compliance arm for whether their house is painted the right color,” but noted the welfare of children and the rights of renters were addressed in the code.

“Property owners need to have rights and we need to protect the people who can’t protect themselves,” Commissioner Alvin Schaaf said.

Schaaf said a little later, “I think I’m gonna have to abstain on this one; my heart’s not in it.”

“Mr. Chair, I move to adopt resolution 2020-04 adopting by reference the 2015 edition of the International Property Maintenance Code,” Wadley said. “And it could die for a lack of a second [motion] I guess.”

Wadley’s motion was not seconded, and died.

The county had already adopted the 2006 International Property Maintenance Code, which remains in effect, according to Weaver.

This story was posted on August 27, 2020.