An off leash dog caused a herd of elk to stampede onto Trailside Elementary's playground Monday morning while more than 500 children were at play. KPCW’s Melissa Allison has more.
When two parents told Trailside Elementary School Principal Robin Williams that they observed a large herd of elk stampeding by the children’s playground, she immediately went out to look. To her relief, staff had already called it in to emergency dispatch and had ushered the children safely back into the school.
"There were two teachers who actually talked to a female who had two dogs off lease and they expressed concern that she needed to have dogs on leash," Williams said. "Their concern was that the dogs would chase the kids. They both said that person ignored them and kept walking with her phone and it was shortly after that point that one of the dogs started to chase the herd.”
Summit County Animal Control and school staff searched the neighborhood to locate the dog the woman called, “Buddy.” But, neither the dog or owner were found.
The elk herd are a common site around the school and they’ve never had any issues in the past. Because of the risk to the children’s safety, Williams implemented a school lockdown.
The children have practiced the lockdown procedure and Williams said she sent a mass email to parents informing them about the elk. However, there’s one person in particular she wishes she could tell.
“Because of the direction she was going, I’m thinking it’s a neighborhood family," Williams said. "I just would just want that person to know that I had to put the kids on lockdown. I explained to the kids why we were on a lockout procedure but, I think for our youngest kids it’s still unnerving.”
Summit County Animal Control Administrator Clay Coleman said the Buddy's owner broke several laws.
“First is off leash and that’s a $100 for the first offense," Coleman said. "Now, if they’re chasing wildlife, that’s considered an attack and could be $500.”
The law dictates that unless the dog is on your private property or has permission on someone else’s property to be off leash, leashes are legally required.
Having a dog of his own, Coleman said he understands. Spring is around the corner and people are going to take their dogs out. But, there are designated areas for dogs.
“We have several dog parks," Coleman said. "And we have the whole Round Valley area which is, you know just a huge combination of trails where it’s completely off leash.”
Williams said people don’t always consider the unintended consequences of having their dogs off leash .
“Having to restrict 580 kids for their own safety, and not that that couldn’t happen on its own but, we live symbiotically with the elk herd all of the time and this is the first time for me in three years that I've felt like it was a risk for our kids.”
The lockdown has since been lifted and with the exception of a few children who have anxiety issues, she said everything is back to normal.