HELENA — Nothing quite puts a damper on a hike like stepping in something that should have been bagged and taken down to the trailhead. As we step into spring, officials want to remind folks to keep an eye on their pup, so we can all enjoy the outdoors together.
“Make sure you're taking it with you and packing it out so you don't forget and you're not putting it on the next trail user to pick up after your dog for you,” says Nate Kopp, Program and Trails Director at Prickly Pear Land Trust.
But sometimes even cleaning up after your dog isn’t enough. It’s important to bring along or grab a few of those waste bags at the trailhead before your hike. And remember to pick it up and pack it out.
It’s more than just an eyesore; it can become an environmental hazard.
“I have a friend who sometimes makes his dog wear a backpack, and that dog actually carries out his own waste,” says Kopp.
It’s also important to remember that not everyone has as friendly of a relationship with dogs as you may have. If your dog is not under voice command, it’s vital to keep them on leash.
“Some people have had negative interactions in the past, they've been bitten, they've been chased. And I think they bring those experiences into the recreational spaces just as your dog’s being brought there,” says Kopp.
The City of Helena says that dogs must be on a leash within 100 yards of a trailhead, and within sight and under voice command of the owner or responsible person.
Last year the city started looking at the potential for stricter enforcement of dogs on city lands after an increasing number of complaints.
This included a phased plan that starts with education and will follow up with a potential quiz that would be required for licensing a dog.
Depending on the success of the first two phases, the city could implement more restrictive rules around dogs on trails.
So, as you hit the trails, keep a close watch on your dog. And pick up and pack out their waste.