A judge dismisses unconventional challenge to Baltimore's leash law

A judge dismissed an unconventional challenge to Baltimore's leash law Thursday morning but considerably reduced the dog owner's fines.

Environmental Control Board Administrative Judge Patricia Webb dismissed a challenge by Dawn Conte of Patterson Park, who argued that she shouldn't have been fined for having her dogs off leash last summer because the city hasn't followed through on promises to construct more dog parks.

Webb denied Conte's argument, pointing to existing legal dog parks in the city — in Canton, Locust Point and downtown. The judge also cut Conte's fines from $600 to $175.

Conte, who plans to appeal the decision, said she's still pleased that the case is bringing attention to the need for more city dog parks.

"This had generated a lot of attention and hopefully we can keep it going and something good will come of it," she said.

In 2009, the city passed a law that not only set leash violation fines but established a framework for creating more legal dog parks and hours when dogs could play in existing parks. Conte's attorney, Robert E. Joyce, an animal lover who is taking the case pro bono, argued that because Baltimore hasn't kept up its end of the bargain with the parks, the rest of the law shouldn't apply either.

Recreation and parks director Gregory Bayor said this week that though city money is tight, he's willing to consider inexpensive fenced-in dog areas, particular in Patterson Park and Riverside Park.

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