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Voice and Sight Tag Program Monitoring

Purpose

City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) staff is seeking feedback on the current approach to monitoring compliance with Voice and Sight Program (Tag Program) requirements.  OSMP staff is interested in your recommendations about how monitoring methods or analysis can be improved. 

While all comments are welcome and will be considered, it would be especially useful if you could provide responses to the following questions:

  1. What changes to the monitoring method do you believe would improve data collection or analysis of indicators?  Why?
  2. What changes to the analysis do you believe would offer better information upon which to base adaptive management decisions?
  3. What other methods to monitor compliance or conflict might OSMP consider?

The public comment period ended Wednesday May 29, 2013.

Next Steps:

  • The compiled public comments are available.
  • City staff will then work with representatives of the community to develop actions to improve the current situation before making recommendations to the Open Space Board of Trustees on July 10.

Contact the Open Space and Mountain Parks office at 303-441-3440 with questions.

More Information

Background on the Voice and Sight Tag Program

Approximately 60 percent of OSMP’s trails afford visitors the opportunity to manage dogs off leash while under voice and sight control. All individuals who wish to walk a dog under voice and sight control must first register in the Tag Program. Participation in the program requires viewing the Tag Program video, registering in the program, and agreeing to manage off-leash dog(s) in the manner described in the video. Payment of a fee is required as part of the registration. Following registration, participants receive a voice and sight tag which must be visibly displayed on any dog managed off-leash under voice and sight control. A change to the Tag Program is being considered which would require all participants to attend an information session.

The City of Boulder Revised Code (B.R.C.) 1981 outlines the specific requirements of voice and sight control.  These requirements include:

  • the dog is in an area where voice and sight is allowed;
  • the dog is accompanied by its guardian or keeper and within view and voice control of such person;
  • the accompanying guardian or keeper has a leash in his or her immediate possession; and
  • the accompanying guardian or keeper has not more than two dogs simultaneously unleashed or unrestrained.

Voice and sight control is defined in the following manner:

“Voice control” means control of the behavior of a dog which is not leashed or otherwise physically restrained by its guardian or keeper sufficient that the dog does not, without regard to circumstances or distractions:

  1. Charge, chase, or otherwise display aggression toward any person or behave toward any person in a manner that a reasonable person would find harassing or disturbing;
  2. Charge, chase, or otherwise display aggression toward any dog;
  3. Chase, harass, or disturb wildlife or livestock; or
  4. Fail to come to and stay with the guardian or keeper immediately upon command by such person;

and voice control does not exist unless the guardian or keeper exercises this command authority at all times to keep the dog within the requirements of this definition.

The Voice and Sight Tag Program Goal and Objectives

The overall goal of the Voice and Sight Tag program is to:  Increase the proportion of dog guardians visiting OSMP with their dogs who have control over their dogs as required by applicable regulations

The program objectives are to:

  1. Improve understanding of voice and sight control.
  2. Improve compliance with dog control rules.
  3. Increase OSMP outreach to and education of the public with respect to voice and sight control.
  4. Decrease conflict involving dogs on OSMP properties.

Past Tag Program Monitoring

OSMP conducted observational monitoring and visitor interviews to evaluate the success of the Tag Program in achieving its objectives and meeting established standards. Observational monitoring focused on objectives #2 and #4, specifically examining whether compliance with dog control rules increased and the incidence of dog-related conflict decreased following implementation of the Voice and Sight Tag program. Staff also used observational monitoring to estimate dog guardian compliance with excrement removal regulations and rates of participation in the program. Lastly, in a separate monitoring effort, staff conducted brief interviews with dog guardians to evaluate compliance with leash possession rules.

Staff observed visitor and dog behavior at 25 sites along trails with medium, high, or very high visitation levels that allow guardians to use voice and sight control to manage dogs. In order to observe a variety of situations that dogs and their guardians encounter, staff considered the location along the trail when selecting monitoring sites. Staff also conducted visitor interviews at the same sites, but at different dates and times than the observational monitoring, keeping the two monitoring efforts separate. 

On average, staff could view approximately 1,000 feet of trail from a monitoring site. Such a vantage allowed staff the opportunity to observe visitors for about four minutes of their trip. Therefore the monitoring results are not estimates of compliance or conflict rates for an entire visit. Compliance and conflict rates reported in this document refer only to rates within the observation zone. Additionally, the monitoring was designed to evaluate a change in compliance with dog control rules and a change in the incidence of dog-related conflict following implementation of the Tag Program. 

OSMP staff monitored visitor and dog behavior in the spring (March, April, and May) of 2006 prior to implementation of the Tag Program, the spring of 2007 approximately six months after implementation of the program, and the spring of 2010 approximately three and a half years after the program was initiated.

Each month, staff monitored visitor and dog behavior during 28 three-hour monitoring periods. The 28 monitoring periods occurred on ten weekday mornings (7-10 AM), ten weekday evenings (4-7 PM), four weekend mornings (7-10 AM), and four weekend mid-days (10:30 AM-1:30 PM).

When each monitoring period began, the staff conducting the monitoring observed all visitor parties with a dog that entered the observation zone.  Staff continued to observe each visitor party until that party left the observation zone. For each observed visitor party, staff recorded the visitor party characteristics and whether any member of the party engaged in specific dog and guardian behaviors considered conflictive.

Indicators used to measure compliance with components of voice and sight control include:

Number of:

  • dogs out of their guardians’ sight
  • dog guardians with more than two dogs off leash
  • incidents where dogs fail to respond appropriately to guardians’ commands
  • incidents where a guardian fails to comply with the regulation prohibiting their dog from charging, chasing, or other displays of aggression toward a person or another dog
  • incidents where a guardian fails to comply with the regulation prohibiting their dog from chasing, harassing or disturbing livestock or wildlife

Statistic

  • Proportion of dog-containing visitor parties which comply with existing dog-related regulations

Indicators used to measure the proportion of dog-containing visitor parties involved in dog-related conflict:

Number of incidents of the following dog, guardian, or other visitor behaviors:

  • dog flushes or causes wildlife to flee
  • dog chases another dog, wildlife, livestock, and/or person other than a member of the dog’s party
  • dog barks repeatedly
  • dog makes physical contact with another visitor and that contact was NOT initiated by a visitor and does not result in injury
  • dog makes physical contact with another visitor and that contact results in an injury
  • guardian repeatedly calls the dog
  • guardians engage in yelling or other verbal confrontation related to dog activity
  • visitor(s) kick, hit, “mace”, or otherwise attempt to or actually harm a dog
  • other behaviors by dogs, guardians, or other visitors that might be considered conflictive and involve dogs

Statistic

  • Proportion of dog-containing visitor parties in which at least one conflictive behavior is observed

“Dog control rules” refers to voice and sight related rules.  OSMP only evaluated compliance with rules that could be observed.  Examples of observable components of voice and sight rules include whether the dog is within the guardian’s view; whether the guardian attempting to manage more than two dogs under voice and sight control; etc.

This monitoring was conducted separately because staff could not observe whether a guardian had a leash for each dog being managed under voice and sight control since some leashes were in backpacks or under clothing.

A party or a visitor party is one or more individuals traveling together who, in the opinion of the observer, appears to be visiting OSMP as one unique group

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