The Hood River County Commission has stayed action on the revised dog laws to address several citizen complaints.
The County Commission decided on Monday that it needed to review objections over a tightening of the dog leash law. They also wanted to consider a recommendation that canine problems be sent to a mediation panel before enforcement action was taken by a judge.
“We wanted to make sure that everyone who wanted to be heard on this matter got the chance to do so,” said Dave Meriwether, county administrator.
The issues currently under scrutiny were raised by Chris Emerson and Joan Fowler who are citizen members of the Animal Control System Review Committee.
The committee, comprised of law enforcement officials and community members, was formed in early 2002 to update the 1979 ordinance so that ambiguities were eliminated and put it into compliance with changes in the state code.
Although the committee finished its work in June, both Emerson and Fowler had dissenting opinions on some of the changes in the draft copy. They submitted written testimony at the Dec. 2 meeting that objected to the “urban” approach taken by the rural county for dealing with dogs at large.
Although the pair agreed that corrective action was needed for dogs that bothered pedestrians or bikers on public streets and roadways, they favored retaining language that allowed dogs to be free if in the company of and under the control of its owner.
The draft ordinance requires that dogs be allowed to run unrestrained off their home turf only if they are working in the field or if they are “at heel,” which means right next to the owner’s leg. The proposed code also prohibits dog owners from tying the leash of their dog to objects outside of a store or coffee shop, a standard practice in downtown Hood River. In addition, pet owners will be subject to penalties for not cleaning up feces left by their dog off its own premises.
Fowler and Emerson said steps should be taken to educate pet owners that the county is known to “deal harshly” with dogs which bite so animals should not be left unattended for their own protection. They said dogs left on their own could be surprised by a child, causing an “unusual response” which could put the animal’s life in danger.
Fowler and Emerson also believe that if Hood River adopts the more restrictive laws, summer residents and tourists should be made aware that the city is a “no-tolerance” area.
“I think people need to be aware that most of our dog enforcement actions are the result of a citizen complaint,” said Hood River Undersheriff Dwayne Troxel, committee chair.
The new dog code will be further addressed at the Jan. 6 meeting.