A pit bull visiting from Lakewood, Washington, that attacked a toy schnauzer as the smaller dog walked on a leash with his owner through a south Baker City neighborhood last month has been designated as a dangerous dog.
Police Chief Ray Duman said hearing officer Paula Sawyer issued the ruling after a Wednesday hearing on the matter.
Sawyer has served as hearing officer since the city established a dangerous dog ordinance in 2014.
Karen Spencer, 52, owner of the schnauzer, attended the hearing to tell her story about the Nov. 3 incident in which her 13-year-old dog Gizmo, was attacked by a large unleashed pit bull along Foothill Drive about 2 o’clock that afternoon.
The owner of the pit bull, Branden Baltzell, 24, of Lakewood, Washington, did not attend the hearing, Duman said. Baltzell also did not respond to calls from Spencer regarding the incident.
Duman said that as a result of Sawyer’s ruling, a written order will be forwarded to Lakewood. The city has an ordinance similar to Baker City’s regarding dangerous dogs that will require Baltzell to meet certain standards for protecting his own community if he keeps the dog.
And if he brings the dog back to Baker City, Baltzell will be required to follow the requirements of Baker City’s ordinance, which calls for, among other things, that the animal be kept inside or when outside that it be maintained within the boundaries of a 6-foot-tall fence. Baltzell also must maintain a minimum $100,000 liability insurance, have a microchip implanted in the animal and keep its rabies vaccination up to date.
If Baltzell fails to meet all requirements of the ordinance and brings the dog back to Baker City, he could be cited and the animal could potentially be seized, Duman said.
“It is the owner’s responsibility to follow the rules of this community,” Duman said.
Spencer said she was thrilled with the results of the hearing.
“I’m happy with the restrictions,” she said. “I hope they are adhered to.”
Gizmo, who was taken immediately to the Baker Animal Clinic after the attack in which the pit bull bit him in the left shoulder, belly and neck, has recovered.
Spencer said the veterinary bills totaled nearly $600. She does not plan to seek restitution from Baltzell because of the expense involved with no guarantee of recouping the expense, she said.
Sadly, after more than 25 years of walking almost daily through Baker City neighborhoods, she no longer feels safe and will not walk her two dogs in town again, she said.
She recently took Gizmo and her Italian greyhound, Bullet, out to Virtue Flat for a walk through the sagebrush.
In her initial call to Baker City Police, Spencer was told that officers could not take action against Baltzell because he would be taking his dog back to Washington.
Duman took another look at the dangerous dog ordinance, which was established in 2013 after 5-year-old Jordan Ryan was mauled to death by a pit bull. The chief, who has been leading the police department since July 1, found that the ordinance authorizes police to investigate all dog complaints and to proceed with further action if appropriate, including a hearing before Sawyer.
Spencer also took her concerns before the City Council in November.
And she has offered to serve as a hearing officer to substitute for Sawyer on cases in which Sawyer is not available or has a scheduling conflict.
She said City Manager Fred Warner Jr. assured her that Duman has met with his officers regarding how future dangerous dog complaints will be handled and the protocol specified in the ordinance.
“Hopefully we can turn this into a positive,” she said.