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    Interference of a Service Dog (May 2014)

    In order to reduce the number of occurrences, JCSO has established a campaign to help educate the community regarding interference with service dogs.

    JCSO cares

    JCSO is taking an active role in investigating interference to service dogs, particularly with off-leash encounters involving other dogs. The law, for persons with disabilities, is crucial because of the potential impact to a disabled person whose dog is incapacitated or killed by another. This criminal matter requires investigation not only by animal control, but law enforcement as well. Service dogs are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act and Colorado state law. The objective is to ensure that service dogs are not interfered with, harmed or killed.

    Chargeable offense

    Aside from the class II petty offense External Link Icon for a dog at-large or off-leash, did you know that it is a crime to negligently permit a dog to intimidate, distract or interfere with a service dog? Interfering with a service dog can be a misdemeanor when the act of interference keeps the animal from continuing their work. Both physical and emotional trauma to a service dog can have a devastating consequence on both the dog and its owner. “Service animals are especially vulnerable to injury during an attack because they’ve been bred and trained to be non-aggressive,” says Jefferson County Animal Control Manager Carla Zinanti. Allowing a pet to injure or interfere could result in a class 3 misdemeanor charge (C.R.S. 18-13-107 External Link Icon), along with potential jail time. Additional consequences to the violator include restitution, costs associated with re-training or replacing a service dog, veterinary bills, lost income, attorney’s fees and court costs.

    Why persons with disabilities need service dogs

    Service dogs promote independence, self reliance, and participation for people with all types of disabilities. Service dogs are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities. Examples of such work or tasks include guiding people who are blind, alerting people who are deaf, pulling a wheelchair, protecting a person who is having a seizure, reminding a person with mental illness to take prescribed medications, calming a person with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) during an anxiety attack, or performing other duties. Service dogs are primarily working animals, and not pets.

    Based on a Real Incident

    Q: What happens when an unleashed dog attacks a service dog?
    A: Disaster!

    Example: Let’s say Joe, the owner of Fluffy, is on a leisurely walk. Fluffy is not harnessed with a leash. Meanwhile, Larry is also walking on the same trail with his service dog, Boots. Fluffy attacks Boots injuring him. Because Boots is trained to be tolerant and non-reactive, he does not defend himself. Boot’s training only lasts so long before his instincts kick in and a full fledge dog fight ensues.

    After the dust settles the damage is assessed. Fluffy, the off-leash aggressor is injured and the owner is responsible for the altercation. Boots (the service dog) now has protective instincts after the fight and will be retired since he “broke” training and began fighting. Larry now has to get a replacement service dog. This could take months or years and costs quite a bit. Joe, Fluffy’s owner will be charged on many counts and may face jail time. He will have to pay to replace Boots, reimburse Larry for the time he is without a service dog, and now has a criminal history. According to an expert in the field of service dogs at least one training organization values their animals at $50,000. In our example the service dog becomes aggressive which necessitates a reason to retire. It is far more common for a dog to develop the equivalency of “doggie PTSD” says the service dog expert. The dog becomes more difficult to manage as a result of the trauma. As you can see, its’ not a simple walk in the park when a dog is off leash…

    The Scoop for Unincorporated Jeffco

    In 2013, JCSO Animal Control received 160 complaints specific to leash law violations (this does not include your garden variety dog running at-large – this is off-leash dogs in parks and neighborhoods). Those 160 complaints resulted in 432 responses by Animal Control, 15 summonses, 100 written warning notices, 22 verbal warnings, and 2 courtesy notifications. The first offense for a dog at-large is a mandatory fine between $50.—$1000. Dog at-large causing bodily injury, or dog off-leash causing bodily injury is a mandatory fine between $100.—$1000.

    Animal Control Manager Carla Zinanti said, “The biggest problem for us is our inability to get to the park in time to witness the violations. We rely on folks to report the violation immediately and help us identify those responsible by providing a license plate number or address for the violator.” To report off leash violations please call 303-277-0211 or 303-271-5070 or email: Animal-Control@jeffco.us

    Top 10 Excuses for Ignoring the Off-leash Ordinance

    “I want my dog to be able to protect himself from predators and strangers.”

    “I moved to the mountains to let my dog run free.”

    “I live in an apartment and this is the only way my dog gets exercise.”

    “My dog is so well trained he doesn’t need a leash.”

    “My dog loves to run up and visit other dogs.”

    “I have an electronic leash.”

    “My dog pulls on the leash and it is uncomfortable for me.”

    “I’m training my dog.”

    “I can’t play fetch with my dog on a leash.”

    “My dog is friendly and loves to visit people in the park.”


    Don’t Forget to Leash Your Service Dog

    Under the Americans with Disabilities Act service animals must be harnessed, leashed, or tethered, unless these devices interfere with the service animal’s work or the individual’s disability prevents using these devices. In that case, the individual must maintain control of the animal through voice, signal, or other effective controls.


    This article was made possible thanks to the author of the new Civil Rights for Persons with Disabilities statute External Link Icon and our partners at Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition External Link Icon.

    Amber Luttrell
    Community Relations Manager

    May 20, 2014