For the first time in his role as Missoula’s mayor, John Engen vetoed a City Council resolution.
The resolution in question, which originally passed on Feb. 23, designated the Jacob’s Island Bark Park, the Tower Street conservation area, the northern portion of Playfair Park and the city-owned portion of Mt. Sentinel as “voice restraint” areas for dog owners.
It was the second of two options provided by the Parks and Rec Department, with the first also including the North Hills and Mt. Jumbo. That first option reflected a two-year-old Parks and Rec policy that was never updated in the city ordinance. City code says that all dogs must be on a leash unless otherwise designated.
When City Council decided to vote for the second option, dog owners howled over what appeared to be a change in policy on the North Hills and Mt. Jumbo.
In a letter to the City Council, Engen outlined his reasons behind the veto. He noted that City Attorney Jim Nugent recommends that any areas designated as voice restraint should be listed in the ordinance and not determined by a resolution. He also pointed out that the city is beginning work on a conservation lands management plan that would have to jibe with the dog ordinance. Lastly, in a nod to the budding controversy, he wrote that “as elected officials, we owe it to our community to be open minded and to listen to further discussion.”
“This is not dogs gone wild,” Engen told City Council when he publicly announced his veto March 2. “This is about trying to find a reasonable compromise.”
Until the compromise is reached, Engen told the council that the city’s policy will return to the status quo, meaning dogs can continue to run unleashed on the North Hills and Mt. Jumbo.