Non-BSL response to attacks
EUGENE, SALEM, Oregon––Dogs, as of March 8, 2017, are officially no longer welcome in downtown Eugene, home of the University of Oregon Ducks, and no longer welcome to run off leash to terrorize ducks and others in parks in Salem, the state capital.
Eugene is considered to be among the most politically liberal cities in Oregon; Salem is among the most politically conservative.
Both cities, however, have had ongoing problems with dangerous dog behavior in public places, mostly involving pit bulls, and both have opted against breed-specific legislation in favor of bylaws restricting access to public space by all dogs.
Neither Eugene nor Salem have had recent dog attack human fatalities or disfigurements. The entire state of Oregon has had “only” two human dog attack fatalities in 10 years, one by a German shepherd in 2007 and one by a recently adopted pit bull in 2013.
But both cities have had close calls, including cases of pit bulls running amok attacking pets. In mid-2016 a Eugene city library employee’s dog was killed by a dog, believed to be a pit bull. The employee was injured.
Pit bull attacked cop
The Eugene incident that may have been the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back” in that city occurred on October 21, 2016, when according to a Eugene Police Department statement, “Officers on foot patrol at Washington Jefferson park contacted a group of individuals who were sitting and standing in the area. There was a grey tarp forming a structure, which is a violation of park rules.
“As an officer walked near the tarp,” the Eugene Police Department statement continued, “a large pit bull mix dog came out and began growling and barking and then went to attack the officer. The dog lunged toward one of the officer’s face and neck, and a second officer came to his aid to defend him from the dog. The dog was unsecured and continued to aggress officers. Officers were able to defend themselves without sustaining injury and without having to kill the dog.
“Some bystanders pulled the dog away. Animal Services responded and took custody of the dog,” the Eugene Police Department finished. “The owner, Candace Louise Barrett, age 47, was cited in lieu of custody for Violation of Park Rules and issued a 30-day Park Restriction. Barrett indicated to officers during her contact with them her wish that her dog had bitten them.”
Owner “wished her dog had bitten the officer”
Pit bull owner Candace Louise Barrett, 47, “was cited for violating park rules and was banned from the park for 30 days. She allegedly told police she wished her dog had bitten the officer,” Garrow recounted.
Introduced on a trial basis by a 6-2 vote, the prohibition of dogs from downtown Eugene is to be in effect until November 1, 2017, when the Eugene City Council is to review the results before deciding whether to make it permanent.
Targeting dogs or bums?
“Councilors in favor of the trial dog ban said the prohibition is one of several things the city is doing to improve downtown safety,” wrote Register-Guard reporter Christian Hill. “Downtown residents and employees have testified about fearing for their safety after encounters with aggressive dogs in the area. Much of the council’s discussion centered,” Hill wrote, “on whether the ordinance was aimed at displacing downtown loiterers, who frequently are accompanied by dogs.”
Councilor Claire Syrett, who favored the ban, “said the city wouldn’t approve if a local kennel club decided to bring dogs to a downtown corner every Wednesday for six hours and ‘have the kind of conflicts that we’re seeing now,’” continued Hill.
Soup kitchen area exempted
Eugene has already excluded dogs for more than 20 years from a commercial area adjacent to the University of Oregon, where similar problems emerged.
After councilors Emily Semple and Betty Taylor objected that banning dogs from downtown amounted to excluding homeless people, the ordinance was amended to exempt the vicinity of The Dining Room, a food project serving the homeless.
Objected councilor Mike Clark, “There’s a whole bunch of folks all clustered there, and if you have several of them with dogs, then it’s inherently dangerous.”
Exemptions for locals & disabled
The ordinance applies to anyone who “harbors a dog or who has it in their care, possession, custody or control or who knowingly permits a dog to remain on any premises occupied by the person.”
Exemptions are provided for people who live or work in downtown Eugene, and for service dogs as defined by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.
“The definition does not extend to dogs who deter crime by their presence or offer emotional support, comfort or companionship,” explained Hill.
Spokane looks toward Salem example
Salem meanwhile hired former Colorado State Parks ranger Mike Zieker to enforce the long ignored city leash ordinance.
“Escalating complaints about loose-running dogs weighed heavy in the decision,” wrote Rich Landers of the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Washington, a city whose counselors are also discussing what to do about escalating numbers of dog attacks.
Most recently, a five-year-old girl was facially disfigured by a pit bull named Pac-Man, when the girl reportedly got between Pac-Man and a smaller dog whom Pac-Man was attacking.
“I will not let my dog be put down for an accident,” vowed Pac-Man owner Christina Norris to KHQ anchor/reporter Hayley Guenthner, but the only evident “accident” was that Pac-Man mauled the girl instead of the smaller dog.
“Didn’t create new rules”
“Signs have been ignored for years. Volunteer educators have had limited success,” Zieker told Landers. Salem “didn’t create any new rules or regulations. They’ve been on the books for a long time, but nobody really enforced them,” Zieker added.
Wrote Landers, “Some people latch on to the misconception that leash laws apply only if other people are around, Zieker said.”
Said Zieker, “I have to explain that keeping dogs on leash protects wildlife from being disturbed. That’s for the sake of the wildlife and the people who want to enjoy them. Also, it puts you in control of your dog if someone unexpectedly comes around a corner. Having a leash in your hand doesn’t do any good if your dog already has taken off running at someone or their dog.”
High fine was not effective
Added Landers, “Before Zieker resorts to writing any citations, Salem officials want to change the ordinance to reduce the fine for off-leash dogs.
“Right now a ticket would be $250,” Salem policy administrator Pat Dodge told Landers, noting, Landers said, that “The high fine may have been more of a deterrent to writing the ticket than changing public behavior.”
Following Dutch precedent
Coming simultaneously, the Eugene and Salem actions tend to confirm a prediction issued by 100 Silliest Things People Say About Dogs author Alexandra Semyonova about what the outcome for dogs in general will be if communities are unwilling or unable to address the disproportionately violent behavior of pit bulls in specific.
“Since the longstanding Dutch national ban on possession of pit bulls was repealed in 2008,” Semyonova explained in April 2012, in one of the first articles posted by ANIMALS 24-7, “ there has been a growing tendency to ban dogs from entering shops, restaurants, and other places the general public frequents. There are plenty of places, such as shops and pubs, that would happily continue to admit dogs, if only they could exclude the pit bull types and their mixes. But since admitting any dog at all means also admitting the grippers, these venues ban all dogs from the premises.
Fewer off-leash parks
“Many public parks that used to allow dogs off-leash,” Semyonova continued, “now require that all dogs be leashed. The parks that do still allow dogs off-leash are becoming more and more unusable for the owners of normal dogs, because so many normal dogs are being mauled and killed in these places by the grippers.
“During the pit bull ban,” Semyonova added, “parents did not reflexively panic if an off-leash dog approached their children in a park. Now they do. Dog owners did not panic if dogs had an argument. Now they do, absorbing the propaganda that all dogs are out to kill their playmate if a spat erupts.”