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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Council will look at draft rules


Council will look at draft rules

Dangerous Dog Ordinance Discussion

By Terri Harber

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The citizens advisory panel writing an ordinance regulating dangerous dogs has finished its work on a draft for Baker City Councilors to look over during their Dec. 10 meeting.

The dog-mauling death of 5-year-old Jordan Ryan on Sept. 27 prompted councilors to seek ways to reduce the possibility of similar dog attacks.

Jordan was killed by a pit bull.

Included in the 14-page draft ordinance is the explanation that dogs declared dangerous or vicious won’t be licensed unless the owner pays a fee set by the City Council and files a compliance certificate and an insurance policy.

A “problem pet owner” wouldn’t be given a license for any dog for up to two years.

The City Council will decide whether the ordinance should focus on declaring specific breeds, such as pit bull as dangerous.

The other option would be to have a hearing officer hear and weigh evidence before declaring a dog dangerous — no matter its breed.

Police Chief Wyn Lohner based much of Baker City’s draft ordinance on one from Highland Park, Ill.

The Highland Park ordinance, which was passed in 2009, does not identify specific breeds.

Councilors will decide whether to make Baker City’s ordinance breed- or behavior-based, Lohner said. 

A hearing officer will hear cases instead of a judge, which would allow for more due process, according to Lohner and panel members.

“I like not having a formal first step,” said resident Greg Brown.

Cases could later end up in Justice Court or Circuit Court if needed. 

Restrictions proposed for dangerous dogs include keeping them indoors or, when outdoors, “either within an enclosure or within a fully-fenced yard enclosed on all sides” by a secure and locked fence at least six feet high. 

When the dog is out in public it must be “directly controlled and supervised by an adult at least 18 years of age.”  

The dog would have to be on a 6-foot-long retractable leash attached to a harness and its snout in a leader -- not a muzzle.

Advisory panel members who work with dogs are concerned use of muzzles would make the dog more aggressive. There also are concerns a muzzled dog could bite once the device is removed.

Jeanette Stewart, who works with dogs, said a muzzle stresses a dog and makes it more likely to attack.

The draft ordinance states that a dangerous dog “is not allowed to be present at any community event or on any city owned property.”

Owners of such dogs also would have to do such things as post signs outside their homes letting others know a dangerous canine is on the premises, have the dog evaluated by a professional behaviorist and complete any required obedience training.

Other provisions contained in this draft: requiring dangerous dogs to have a microchip implanted, allowing their location to be tracked, obtaining liability insurance or a surety bond worth at least $100,000, and prohibiting the transfer of dog ownership without first disclosing that it’s a dangerous pet.

Vicious dogs would be subject to more stringent requirements. Those are dogs already considered dangerous that have repeatedly acted in a dangerous way.

Proposed fines for not following the rules start at $50 for the first instance of improper tethering, and up to $1,500 for being repeatedly declared a problem pet owner.

No dogs could be tethered for no more than three hours at a time within city limits. It’s more stringent than the new state law going into effect on Jan. 1 that allows much longer periods for dogs to be tied or chained up.

There also would be other rules pertaining to the tethering of dogs, such as not doing so when outdoor temperatures are extremely hot or cold.

Other additions include:

• Spaying or neutering dogs declared dangerous would be required in most cases.

• Fencing to keep harmful dogs away from the public would need to be solid enough to keep people — especially children — from sticking their hands or feet through so the dog could bite.

• Allowing a dog to run at large could be held against a pet owner and contribute toward eventually naming the person as a problem pet owner.

• Dog enclosures would be sized based on the size of the dog (or dogs) that would be left inside.

Katie Stoddard, a dog owner who attended the advisory panel meeting Thursday, said she thinks tattooing the dog’s ear with a designation of dangerous or vicious might be a viable alternative to microchipping.

Stewart disagreed because information contained in the microchip could be more easily updated than a tattoo.

And “not many officers would be willing to twist a dog’s ears around right after it bit someone,” Lohner said.

Public education is going to be part of the community effort to better protect the public from dogs that might cause great physical harm. It’s not part of the proposed ordinance, however.

“The potential for another fatality plagues me,” said Dick Haines, a Baker Valley resident who also serves as president of New Hope for Eastern Oregon Animals.

He wants to ensure residents take a more active role when they see dog problems, including abuse, inappropriate tethering, and even dogs running loose.

That would require a significant effort to teach residents of all ages how to properly treat and approach dogs, he said.

For first-time offenses, the city could offer diversion as opposed to a monetary fine — something pursued by some of the committee members, such as Haines.

Lohner says the group most likely won’t meet again until after the proposal is introduced at the council meeting. And it may not need to meet again.

Councilors aren’t expected to schedule meetings during the fourth Tuesdays of November and December because of Thanksgiving and Christmas, unless an urgent need arises.

Lohner also wants the volunteers in Citizens On Patrol to go door to door selling city dog licenses. 



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