Pet peddling a disservice to all
To the editor,
I consider myself to be an easygoing, tolerant person. I sometimes go to City Market in my pajamas and bed head is a state of mind I embrace. I believe in the right to live and let live. However there is one thing that makes my blood boil: people on street corners or in grocery store parking lots peddling puppies or kittens.

Last month, I observed a woman selling Great Pyrenees puppies out of a car with New Mexico plates in the Walmart parking lot. For those of you who don’t know, Great Pyrenees look like cute fluffy snowballs when they are puppies. They can grow to an excess of 125 lbs. They are independent, protective and difficult to train. They have long coats and shed a lot. They are bred to spend most of their lives outside, but have a tendency to wander, making them less than ideal for folks without large, fenced-in yards. They eat, and poop, a lot. Veterinary expenses can be out-of-this-world for dogs this size. The retail price of a spay/neuter can be upwards of $500. Great Pyrenees have a host of potential congenital deficits such as bad hips, shoulders, eyes, ears and elbows that can be costly to treat.

The lady with the box of puppies knows all about the financial, physical and time commitments related to owning this breed. Yet she is willing to hand one over to anyone with cash.

The ignorant buyer has no knowledge of the parents’ health and temperament issues. Was the mother kept in safe, clean conditions with regular vet checks or was she stressfully confined to a tiny enclosure full of excrement? Was the father chosen for outstanding characteristics and temperament or did he spend his life chained to a tree?4
The seller has no knowledge of the buyers’ qualifications. Do they live in an apartment that doesn’t allow pets? Do they have experience with the breed? Do they have the resources to provide proper care? Have they ever been convicted of animal cruelty?

I am not against breeders or purebred dogs. I have a penchant for the Cardigan Welsh Corgi and spent years researching the breed and its requirements and assessing my lifestyle before I made the 15-year commitment to adopt a puppy. I waited until a reputable breeder had a litter of pups and had a dog with a suitable temperament for my household. The breeder had me fill out a two-page application and did reference checks. She interviewed me and made sure I understood what I was getting into. Since the dog did not have the conformation required to breed show-quality offspring, the breeder made me sign a contract stating I would have the pup neutered. Also included in the contract was a clause that if I could no longer care for the dog I would relinquish him to the breeder so she could find a new home for him.
On my end, I researched the breeder as much as she interrogated me. I made sure she was a member of a national breed club. I saw photos of the parents, checked references and had a friend check the breeding facility, which was in another state, for sound conditions.

Sounds like a lot of work, right? I disagree. This animal was going to be a member of my family. I wanted to make sure I was adopting a healthy dog with a sound temperament. I wanted to do at least as much research as I would with the purchase of a car or computer.

Chris Nelson, director of La Plata County Humane Society, says that he sees the fallback from such hasty transactions. Many animals purchased on impulse are eventually surrendered to the Humane Society. Some become sick with parvo virus. Some are brought in as soon as the landlord finds out. Others live in their new homes until they develop annoying behaviors or outgrow their cuteness. Chris says he has seen animals from the same litter brought in by separate buyers days or hours after being purchased from parking lots or street corners.

In addition to the Great Pyrenees pups, I have observed litters of labs, pitbulls and numerous kittens being peddled on the streets of Durango. I once saw a man selling English Bulldog puppies for $2,500 each in the City Market parking lot.
Several communities and the state of California have banned the sale or distribution of puppies and kittens on public property. The state of Louisiana just passed such a measure.

Currently, the city of Durango and La Plata County have no such protections. When I see animals being sold in such a manner I have called the authorities to no avail. I have spoken to the management of the businesses. Sometimes they comply with my request to shepherd the sellers off, but that is at their own discretion.

Such a law would not prohibit breeders from advertising on Craigslist or the newspaper. It would discourage impulse buying and hasty decisions by unprepared pet owners. It would encourage more accountability among breeders. It may encourage more people to adopt pets at the La Plata County Humane Society, where a vet check, vaccinations, microchip and spay/neuter surgery is included in the price.

– Wendy Haugen, Director, Foundation for Protection of Animals

Bad math in Boulevard B&B denial
To The Editor,
I found the piece in the Durango Herald on May 3 “Commercial Creep on East Third Avenue?” about The Jakway House B&B special-use permit application an informative article. However, as owner of The Jakway House, I was surprised that no effort was made to interview me for the article.  I have a few informational tidbits to add.

The quote “The Boulevard Neighborhood Association has helped kill four proposals for bed-and-breakfasts on East Third Avenue since the 1980s” is accurate as far as it goes, but not very explanatory. All its dues paying members (you have to pay $20 dues to vote) attended the Boulevard Neighborhood Association meeting on the B&B use. The vote was 13 against and nine for the project. This very small organization represents itself as “The Voice” of the neighborhood speaking for all the residents; it is not representative of the entire neighborhood.

Further on in that article reads, “East Third Avenue residents remain vigilant at keeping commercial creep out of the historic neighborhood.” This statement is misleading since a very large majority of East Third residents were in favor of the B&B. Why weren’t the facts and numbers printed?
According to The City Planning Office:
- 74 Boulevard property owners wrote letters in favor of the project.
- 42 additional Boulevard residents signed a petition in favor of the project.  
- Nine Boulevard property owners wrote letters against the project.
- One opposition letter came from a B&B owner on Fifth Avenue.
- Another opposition letter came from a person not living on East Third.
- There was 1 opposition letter with no residential address given.
Unfortunately, small town politics carried the day. Council rejected the overwhelming neighborhood consensus for a B&B to appease a small minority of the residents. A golden opportunity was lost that should have and could have been a big step toward revitalizing Durango’s declining historic neighborhood.

The City Attorney gave his legal opinion that any future City Councils would not be obligated to approve other applications in the neighborhood because The Jakway is surrounded on all four sides by public property, the only property on the Avenue that is.  No lawyer office tentacles could have crept out of a supportive B&B decision.

Mike Smedley put it all in perspective in his Durango Herald May 14 Durango Dictionary column: “Boulevard” has a specific meaning in Durango.

Pronounced “bully-vard,” this word describes when residents of a tree-lined street go to extreme lengths to preserve its “historic character” by vehemently protesting tasteful commercial use of properties but allowing a host of rundown, dilapidated rental homes to sully the neighborhood.”

I want to thank all 114 residents for their support and encouragement for the B&B and for taking their time to communicate their many concerns and frustrations about property ownership and use in the Historic District.
– Carole Withers, Durango

Dino train plan full of surprises
Dear Editor,
A few things surprised me when I attended Monday’s “Neighborhood Compatibility Meeting” between the Railroad representatives and the people who were concerned about the proposed trains to a dinosaur theme park in the Animas Valley. The first surprise was that I wasn’t considered part of the “neighborhood” that was required to be notified about the proposal - even though I live across the street from the railroad tracks. (Only those who live within 1,000 feet of the proposed theme park had to be informed.)

Second, what I assumed was a proposal by our “local” railroad was actually part of a national company with railroad theme park rides all over the country.

I was surprised that the people attending this meeting were mostly great fans of our historic railroad, even though they were opposed to the dinosaur inflatable theme park.

Apparently, the railroad has been surprised by the opposition to the additional noise, smoke and mostly, cheapening of the historic significance of the Durango/Silverton train. There was great objection to the legal sloppiness and lack of clarity of the proposal. (For instance, although the railroad said at the meeting that they only want to run this theme park train for three days, they don’t have that in writing but want open dates over several months.)

Before it has been approved by our county commissioners, the railroad has already advertised the dinosaur park train ride for June. It seems they consider our commissioners merely a rubber stamp for their business plans.
The County Commissioner meeting considering the Dinosaur Park is May 29 at 10 a.m. Their e-mail is:

– Louise Teal, Durango

Save lives with one simple click
To the editor,
Last year, 187 people got into a vehicle in Colorado and died after they neglected to do something that may have saved their lives – buckle their seat belts. Admittedly, some crashes are not survivable, but most are, thanks in part to new roadway engineering and vehicle safety improvements that are continuing to increase the odds of surviving a crash.

Despite these advances, technology’s role is limited, and human behavior must make up the difference if Colorado is to continue to see a decline in the number of people killed on our state’s roadways. That is why the Colorado Department of Transportation and Colorado State Patrol are asking everyone to take two seconds to buckle up and make sure children are properly protected in an appropriate child safety seat – every trip, every time.

This request comes at a time when there will be overtime enforcement of the state’s seat belt and child passenger safety laws as part of the national Click It or Ticket campaign, May 21 - June 3. Since Click It or Ticket enforcement began in Colorado 10 years ago, the number of people killed unbuckled in crashes has declined by 50 percent. While that news is positive, we know it provides no comfort to the families and friends of the 187 people who died last year without seat belts. In La Plata County in 2011, 11 drivers or passengers lost their lives — four of those may have survived if they had been buckled up.

Perhaps a seat belt ticket or the risk of getting one will be enough to convince more people to buckle up and save lives. While getting a $65 seat belt ticket will anger some people, it may be a lifesaving reminder that will prevent them from putting their loved ones through a loss that may have been prevented with one simple click.

– Major Lawrence Martin, District 5 Commander for the Colorado State, and Kerrie Neet, Region 5 Transportation Director for the Colorado Department