COLORADO SPRINGS CO - 2 LARGE DOGS THAT APPEARED TO BE GREAT DANE MIXES ATTACKED CYCLING COACH CHRIS CARMICHAEL IN NORTH CHEYENNE CANON PARK
Well-known cycling coach Chris Carmichael was apparently bitten by multiple dogs as he pedaled along a trail in North Cheyenne Canon Park last week.
An Instagram post by Carmichael stated he was attacked and bloodied Wednesday by two big dogs. The images - showing his hand, leg, shorts, cycling jersey and gloves covered with blood - put the spotlight on an unleashed-dog problem that continues to plague trails, parks and open space through the Colorado Springs area.
"They knocked me down. Fought my way back to my feet and started swinging with my bike. Have to admit, it was kinda a frightening experience," Carmichael captioned one photo.
An animal law enforcement official with the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region confirmed on Monday that his office received a complaint Thursday of a dog attack against a cyclist at the same time and in the same Colorado Springs city park. Officer Joe Stafford said two large dogs attacked the man, leaving him bloody.
"This was more than your average dog bite," Stafford said.
Stafford refused to release the name of the victim because the investigation is ongoing and officers are looking for the dogs and the owner.
Carmichael, who owns Carmichael Training Systems and coached Lance Armstrong during his drug-tainted championship run in the Tour De France, did not return calls from The Gazette seeking to determine if the incidents are the same.
Carmichael called the animals "big GREAT DANE MIX DOGS." But Stafford said the breeds of the dogs mentioned in the complaint his office received Thursday have not been confirmed.
Stafford said it is against the law in Colorado Springs and most of El Paso County for dog owners to have their animals off leash "once they leave their own personal property." He said the Humane Society receives about 2,500 reports of aggressive animals each year, with the majority of aggressive dogs reported as off leash.
"It has become commonplace for people to allow their dogs off leash," he said. "And the majority of those people don't think their dogs would ever bite anyone."
Along with that sentiment he said there has been a "shift in perception" among people using trails and open space in the area. Stafford said there is an ever-growing contingent that is speaking out loudly against having dogs unleashed. He attributes the clamor in the Pikes Peak region to a survey by the City of Colorado Springs during its last Master Plan process.
Susan Davies, who writes the "Trail Talk" column for The Gazette, echoed Stafford's assessment in her July 28 article. She said responses to the survey were heated and showed that the city is divided. Davies' column said, "A great number feel it is their right to have dogs off-leash in parks and open spaces. Just as many feel park rules should be followed and dogs should be leashed except in designated off-leash areas."
El Paso County officials took action earlier this year in an effort to deter dog owners from letting their animals run free in county parks. The Board of County Commissioners passed a fine schedule in the spring that would allow county parks security officers to issue fines of $50 for the first offense, $100 on the second and $150 for a third violation.
While the fines were approved in May, county Director of Community Services Tim Wolken said in a recent email that his office has been consulting other counties and hammering out details with the 4th Judicial District, the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, the Treasurer's Office and other involved departments since then. He said county parks expect to actively begin enforcing their dog leash rules sometime before October.
Stafford advises dog owners to use leashes in the parks. And he also would like to remind others in parks and open spaces to be aware of the ongoing problem and be ready to take action if they are aggressively approached by an unleashed dog.
The officer said if the problem escalates, those adamantly opposed to dogs off leashes could push to ban animals in open spaces altogether. He said that is something that many people don't want to see in a region that is known to be dog friendly.
"My worst fear is that someday somebody is going to say, 'We don't want animals in this park, This is out of control,'" Stafford said, adding the he loves "to take my animals to the parks and open space around where I live. I don't want that activity to be restricted."