(COLORADO SPRINGS) — The Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region (HSPPR) is hoping to enforce stricter policy on some less than serious dog attacks or encounters in response to an increase in the number of Dangerous Dog cases.

151 bites have been reported to El Paso County Public Health so far in 2023, and last year 864 bites were reported.

“I mean, for pet owners, it’s actually protection. I mean, because public safety is our first priority within the Humane Society,” Assistant Director for Animal Law Enforcement for HSPPR, Lindsey Vigna, said. “And so being able to catch some of these concerning behaviors prior to them escalating is actually, you know, beneficial for pet owners in the community. Because at the end of the day, you know, our main concern is making sure we’re not only protecting people from dangerous animal encounters but also their pets as well.”

On Friday afternoon, Bear Creek Dog Park was filled with owners and dogs. One dog owner, Kymberly Stockdale, described an incident she encountered with another dog and its owner.

“And the dog kept circling me and I finally told her, ‘I’m scared, please grab your dog, I’m afraid to move,'” Stockdale said. “And she eventually came up and kind of just shooed him, but she didn’t even grab him. And when she left the park, she didn’t put him on a leash. She didn’t have him on a leash, and I actually took her license plate down to see if she would ever come here again, because she’d already had an incident with another guy.”

Since that encounter, Stockdale said she has not seen that owner, but it was a moment she will not forget.

“I never have dogs bark at me,” Stockdale said. “…I would say it was at least a 60-pound dog jump up at you, growl and circle you where you have to just stand still and you’re begging the owner, leash your dog. You know? Yeah, it sticks with me.”

The proposed ordinance would require mandatory education and mandatory spay and neuter for Dangerous Dog cases.

“Right now, we’re just you know, we’re being an advocate for local pet owners and the community and trying to lend the expert opinions when it comes to legal matters such as this,” Vigna said.

Another dog owner at the park was Shawn Ley, who commented on how the dogs play with each other.

“When I’ve been to dog parks, I’ve seen the hierarchy of behaviors and stuff and they kind of say hi to each other,” Ley said. “And that initial contact might seem aggressive, but it’s really not and if you watch it, you can tell.”

Ley has a puppy and commented on the importance of owners taking responsibility for their dog’s actions.

“Well, so I don’t know what the penalties are right now, but I think that if there is a dangerous dog, there should be some accountability for the owners to keep their dog under control,” Ley said.

The owner of Two Tails Training, Fernando Gonzales, commented that this is a step in the right direction.

“It’s my understanding that they’re addressing more of the gray areas because they have laws for the serious dog attacks,” Gonzales said. “So, they’re addressing more of like off-leash dogs that look like they might attack. So, it’s a step in the right direction, although I don’t like that it’s penalties because that implies that we already messed up and something already happened.”

Gonzales shared several ways to stop aggressive behavior in dogs, including avoiding the dog park, keeping your dog on leash, and teaching your dog with a good trainer.

“But I think that every dog should be trained, whether they have issues, behavioral issues or not, especially if we want to be able to have them in a city like Colorado Springs, which is extremely dog friendly, being able to know boundaries and know how to handle our dogs is super important,” Gonzalez said.

The ordinance is still in the preliminary stages, Vigna said they will be working on the proposed language before it is voted on.