Nov 30

Pet Facts – Owning a Pet in Rifle, Colorado

Posted on November 30, 2018 at 9:21 AM by Michael Churchill

Owning a dog seems so easy. Just feed it and walk it, right? Well, not quite. There are many laws relating to animal ownership and responsibility. Working at the municipal court, I’m always a bit surprised by how many people come in with a dog violation ticket claiming they had no knowledge of the law. The statutes governing pet ownership are designed to keep both pets and people safe and help us all live together harmoniously. 

Generally, when a complaint about an animal is received, one of the City’s Community Service Officers (CSO) or a patrol officer is sent to respond. Should the officers discover a violation, they have a number of options for how to proceed. 

First, they can issue a warning. The main goal of CSOs is education. They want citizens to understand the rules of pet ownership.

Second, they may issue what’s called a “fix-it” ticket. Similar to vehicle infractions such as a broken headlight, an animal fix-it ticket provides the owner with a certain amount of time to correct the issue. An example would be dog licensing. An individual may be given a ticket which will be dismissed if they obtain a license within a delineated number of days. 

Third, the owner may be given an infraction ticket which is not fixable. This type of ticket simply assesses a fine which needs to be paid for the violation. With animals, this is frequently a ticket for running at large, which means that the pet was out without a leash.

Finally, the officer may issue a summons. A summons is an order to appear in court to respond to the charge. These have no set fine amount and require the owner to come to court to resolve the issue.

I asked Community Service and Animal Control Officer Dawn Neely to provide a breakdown to help pet owners understand the laws. Here are the things everyone who owns a pet in Rifle needs to know. Most importantly, if you have any questions or are unclear about your duties, don’t hesitate to contact Officer Neely. Further, the entire Rifle Municipal Code can be found on the City website, which can be translated into Spanish with the push of a button. Animal laws are found in Chapter 7.  After all, education is the primary goal. 

Animal Laws 

  • Leash Law - Your dog must always be on a leash when it is outside of your home or fenced yard.  This includes all parks and trails in Rifle.  The first violation is $50 per dog! 
  • Barking Dogs - Be mindful of your neighbors and try to keep your dog from causing a disturbance by barking in a loud, repetitive or excessive manner.  It is unlawful for any animal owner to allow their animal to cause a noise disturbance.  Be aware that normal neighborhood noise is allowed; expect to hear vehicle traffic, kids playing, basketballs bouncing and both people and dogs talking.
  • Clean Up After Your Dog - Not picking up after your dog and disposing of its feces properly could result in a fine or a mandatory court appearance.
  • City Dog Licenses Required - Dog licenses are available at Rifle Police Department, City Hall (Finance Department), Town & Country Vet, Valley Vet, and Rifle Animal Shelter.
    • Bring your current rabies certificate or tag
    • $10 for spayed/neutered dogs
    • $20 for intact dogs
    • Good for one year
    • City Dog License Tag must be attached to your dog’s collar
    • County Dog Licenses are required for county residents
  • Proof of current Rabies vaccination is required for all dogs, cats, and ferrets four months old or older.
  • Summer Safety Tips – Make sure your pet has unlimited access to fresh water and shade when outside.  Stay off hot surfaces like asphalt because it can burn your pet’s paws.  And, don’t leave your pet in the car when temperatures rise over 70 degrees Fahrenheit! 
  • Winter Safety Tips- Bring your pet inside for the winter if at all possible.  Outside pets must have a warm, windproof shelter with sufficient dry bedding and possibly a safe heat source to keep the pet warm.  Keep pets away from car antifreeze; as little as 2 teaspoons can be lethal to a small animal.  Ice melters and salts can irritate or burn your pet’s feet.  Be sure to wash off any exposed areas, such as your pet’s feet or belly.

Things I wish folks knew

  • Anonymous callers limit our ability to do our jobs.  It is best if we can contact the person making the report to let them know what our local ordinances are, as well as get complete information about the nature of the complaint.  Some issues, like barking dogs, require two parties from different residences to file a complaint and they cannot be anonymous.
  • Call the dispatch non-emergent number, (970) 625-8095, when the complaint is happening.  This gives the officer on duty the best chance of resolving the issue.  Please don’t wait weeks, months or even years hoping that the situation will somehow resolve. 

Resources  (me!)

Find the Rifle Municipal Code online at, or call the non-emergency dispatch number (970) 625-8095

Dawn Neely is a Community Service and Animal Control Officer at the City of Rifle Police Department.  Dawn joined the Community Service team in May 2013.  She is certified as an Animal Control Officer and animal cruelty investigator, is a graduate of Oregon State University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Animal Science, and did graduate studies and research in Veterinary Science at the University of Kentucky. 

Kathy Pototsky, Public Information Officer, City of Rifle

Oct 25

“911. What’s The Address of Your Emergency?”

Posted on October 25, 2018 at 9:30 AM by Michael Churchill

Is your vision of an emergency dispatcher a person sitting in front of a single computer screen with a phone on the desk next to them? Or does it go back a wee bit further to Lily Tomlin and a switchboard? Well, both images are wrong.

A few weeks ago, I had the rare opportunity to tour the Garfield County Emergency Communications Authority, more commonly known as “dispatch” or Garco911.  The Executive Director, Carl Stephens, was generous enough to allow the Garfield County Public Information Officers Group to hold our monthly meeting in their conference room. The facility is located here in Rifle. There used to be dispatch locations in Glenwood, Parachute and Rifle, but in 2001 they all combined into the one center here. Stephens explained that the merger saves a tremendous amount of money primarily due to the cost of staffing and equipment.  The technical equipment needed for emergency response only has a 5-7 year lifespan. 

Garco911 has a staff of 25 including 18 dispatchers. There are generally four on duty at any given time. They work 12-hour shifts with 3-4 days off. Garco911 has reciprocity with Grand Junction so if all lines are busy, the call will automatically roll over to those dispatchers. A person calling 911 will never get a busy signal.  Dispatchers undergo 16 weeks of intensive on the job training which includes learning not only how to give clear emergency instructions, but how to coordinate the technical aspects of the job. They also need to learn how to handle stress and be capable of spending long hours in one spot.

One of the most amazing things about the center is the individual workstations for the dispatchers. They are large pods with 5 screens, 3 keyboards, 4 computer mouses and 2-foot pedals which help work the phones and the radio. It’s absolutely nothing like on TV where they have one screen and a telephone headset. A red light atop a pole indicates whether or not they are on a call so their colleagues are aware. 

Watching them work is incredible. Although only one emergency call came in during our short visit, it was definitely intense. The dispatcher taking the call was simultaneously talking to the person who called 911, dispatching emergency personnel, receiving information yelled across the room from another dispatcher who was speaking to a first responder, typing into the computer and giving first aid instructions. The whole thing took multitasking to another level. The entire time during the call, the room was calm and cool and you would never have guessed what was actually happening if you had no audio. I was astonished and very impressed. The people capable of performing this job are in a league of their own. 

Recently, the 911 system was upgraded. The upgrades helped improve the ability to locate where a call is coming from. If a call comes from a landline, the address will automatically pop up on one of the dispatch computer screens. However, the majority of calls these days come from cell phones which are, obviously, mobile. Improvements in software able to pinpoint location are critical for a timely response to an emergency. Texts to 911 currently get routed to Larimer County, but that will soon be changing as well. Interestingly, Stephens noted that they only receive a few texts a month. Most people still call. 

The types of calls coming into the center vary, but all of the dispatchers on duty seemed to agree that between 4:00p.m.and 6:00p.m.there is a definitive spike in traffic-related incidents. I guess rush hour happens even in small towns!  They take over 106,000 calls per year. Stephens did point out that many of those calls are duplicitous meaning they receive more than one call about the same incident. Anyone who has ever called 911 only to be told “we are aware of that incident” can vouch for the veracity of that statement. 

Calling for help in an emergency has evolved a long way since the old days of dialing “0” or running to a neighbor’s house for assistance. This evolution was so gradual that we often take it for granted. Observing these individuals in action makes me extremely grateful not only for technological advances, but for the people working there. Great technology isn’t great without exceptional people who know how to use it and can stay calm under the most extraordinary circumstances. 

The same technological advances that allow for quick response when you call 911 are also utilized to call you in the event of an emergency. Citizens are reminded to be sure to sign up for the Garfield County Emergency Notification System. This state-of-the-art system will notify you about an important situation in your area, such a fire or flood. It’s very easy just go to to sign up. 

Rifle Rapport is a periodic article featuring the people and projects of the City of Rifle. If you have suggestions for future articles, please contact Kathy Pototsky at 970-665-6420 or

Oct 04

Happy Trails to You Rifle!

Posted on October 4, 2018 at 8:51 AM by Michael Churchill

Rifle citizens want trails. And more trails and more trails. According to a 2016 Community Survey conducted by the ETC Institute, sixty-six percent (66%) or 2,113 households here in Rifle indicated they have a need for a trail system. 

“Trails were the number one thing people said they wanted,” according to Nathan Lindquist, Planning Director for the City of Rifle. For several years, the City has made a concerted effort to improve and add to our local trails. Currently, we have over 10 miles of paved and unpaved trails. From the beautiful walk around Centennial Park to the more challenging Rifle Arch, there is something for every ability. The past three years alone have brought us the Morrow Draw Trail running parallel to 9th Street through the woods, Murphy’s Trail which runs from 14th Street to the high school and the trail connecting Whiteriver Avenue to Munro. And we’re just getting started. According to Lindquist, there are several potential projects in the future. He envisions completing the Rifle Creek Trail, finishing work on the Highlands Trail and expanding the area around Rifle Arch to include mountain biking paths. 

So how do these visions become reality? The design of new trails is done by both an analysis of aerial maps and by actually going out to the area and walking around. Most local trail money comes from a variety of sources including grants and City and county funding. Volunteers often do much of the actual work. One upcoming project here in Rifle is being coordinated by Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers (RFOV). According to their website, Roaring Fork Outdoor Volunteers was started in 1995 by a group who “…saw the need for a volunteer organization to work in partnership with the public agencies and municipalities that manage, preserve and protect our public lands”. Each year, they pick a variety of projects upon which to embark. This year, Rifle was one of the areas selected.  

Another organization critical in trail building in our area is RAMBO, the Rifle Area Mountain Biking Association. The group’s mission statement is to “promote and advocate mountain biking and trail building in the Rifle, Colorado area”. According to Steven Fuller, “Our vision is to lead our community in building and maintaining quality mountain bike-specific and multi-user trails and to encourage active lifestyles and healthy living through built environment and recreation opportunities on public lands.” Fuller goes on to state that “[w]hile there is a RAMBO board that meets to deal with financial and strategic issues, RAMBO exists primarily as a Facebook page where community members can connect with like-minded recreationists, plan group rides, or learn about trails and upcoming events. Everyone is invited to join”.

Coming up on Saturday, October 13th from 8:30a.m-4:00p.m., the groups will be building a new soft-surface trail near the water treatment plant. This project, currently referred to as the South Graham Mesa Trail Project (it will likely be renamed The Highlands Trails), encompasses roughly 35 acres of diverse topography. There are areas of desert, patches of woods and numerous gulleys. As described by Lindquist, “It’s a lot of trail out of a little piece of ground”. His ultimate goal is to expand the trails in the area by another 20 acres on land adjacent to the plant. That plot will be the site of a new water line, but after those improvements are done, the area could certainly have trails running over the top. 

If you would like to help construct these new trails, the meeting spot will be Davidson Park (volunteers can park at the elementary school across the street). This trail is literally blocks away from downtown. 

Olivia Deihs, Program Manager for RFOV, states that “[w]e are thrilled to get the chance to provide recreation opportunities for folks right in their backyard! This new trail will be open to all uses – including hiking, biking, and dog walking.  Volunteer work will consist of building new trail, light trimming, and constructing erosion structures to keep water from flowing down the trail. This work is best suited for adults and kids 12 years old and up. RFOV always provides pizza, beer, and beverages post-project as way for us to say “thank you!” to our awesome volunteers. Join us to spend the day giving back to our public lands and enjoying hilltop views of the entire valley!”

If you would like to volunteer, please go to the RFOV website to sign-up so they are sure to have enough food and leadership for all: or