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.
(See How the Americans with Disabilities Act has become the “Pit Bull Pushers Act”.)
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.
(See Pit bulls, immigrants, & the alleged Islamic jihad against dogs.)
“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.”
Pit bull’s viciousness… ruins it for all dogs.
With the highly financed opposition, BSL is difficult, so I don’t blame communities for trying other things. Banning dogs from public places and strictly enforcing leash laws where dogs are allowed are two preventive measures that could help.
Enacting UK style “Dangerously Out of Control Dog” laws would also help by eliminating the usual “It’s never done anything like that” excuses and also making illegal damage outside of bites, like chasing a child into traffic or jumping up and knocking an elderly person down.
Dog owners (and I am one) must be held responsible for ALL of their dogs actions.
Elizabeth Clifton says
Unfortunately, the U.K. situation is as bad as ours. Please see:
I did not intend to give the impression I though things were better in the UK, only that they have laws to prosecute folks whose dogs are “Dangerously Out of Control”,
“It’s never done that before” should be removed as a legitimate excuse for dog owners.
Jim Johnson says
Thanks for this. The article is a little inaccurate in regards to Eugene, however. I live in Eugene and have seen what is happening here.
The dog ban is not in response to a “dangerous dog” problem, but a “dangerous people” issue. Our downtown is overrun with vagrants – a combination of needy homeless, dropouts from life who choose to live on the streets, and other assorted criminals. These people hang out downtown, begging for money and becoming aggressive when they don’t get it. They sleep on business doorsteps, defecate on the sidewalks, and buy and sell drugs in the parks. An article on the situation can be found at http://registerguard.com/rg/news/local/35286077-75/eugenes-downtown-is-in-crisis-consultant-says-in-outlining-new-vision-for-public-spaces.html.csp
Many of these people have dogs, and many of these are pit bulls. The issues with pits here are probably similar to that in other places; but ironically, this ban is not about the dogs. It is a lame and misguided attempt to put pressure on the people who are ruining our city. Strangely enough, the killing of the small dog by the pit bull last year was never reported in the local media, though the attack on the policeman was.
Still, your point is valid: rather than addressing issues head-on by targeting problems – whether they be dangerous dogs or dangerous people – our city has chosen to take the spineless approach of banning a broad swath of behaviors (they also considered banning smoking downtown in the same session,)
Keep up the good work!
For a minute there, I thought you lived in San Diego. The neighborhood I live in has a large homeless population. It’s a shame because there are a lot of craftsman homes here and the neighborhood has a good mix of people. You can’t have anyhing nice around here. There have been a slew of garage/yard robberies, car break-ins, and car thefts (me!). A lot of homeless people are running around here with pit bulls, some of the pit bulls walking loose, not on a leash. They have these dogs, all the while stealing multiple bikes. There are little bike theft rings. You can see one person with a couple of bikes and a dog and you know damn well the bikes are stolen. These homeless people shouldn’t even be allowed to have pets while living on the streets. You want to live on the streets, fine but don’t drag your dog into it.
Mom in Eugene says
I am also in Eugene and can say its just as much about the dogs as their lowlife owners. Their dogs are a constant menace, and they are usually pits. This city is safe, except for areas with a high concentration of pits. I am happy they are banned and hope its permanent and strictly enforced.
All dog owners suffer, but that beats pits all over any day.
It’s sad but inevitable, too many dog owners anymore are utter idiots. They have no BREED knowledge, they won’t leash even where it’s the LAW, they don’t keep their dogs rabies vaccination up to date, they don’t bother to reliably teach their dog how to act, they accept and excuse horrible and even vicious behavior. The public is getting tired of delusional dog owners inflicting vicious and horridly behaved animal on them.
Marc Paulhus says
Sadly the pit bull defense is another example of cognitive dissonance. The information is available and compelling. Pit bulls and pit bull type dogs are vastly over-represented in serious and fatal attacks against animals and people. Yet over and over those who should acknowledge the dangers make excuses and cite anecdotal information to suggest that the dogs are being unfairly stigmatized. They aren’t. Facts are facts.
Jamaka Petzak says
Dogs all too often aggress, maim or kill innocent animals and human beings. Their waste is offensive and not everyone who has a dog picks up after it. While it is regrettable that homeless people with dogs will be negatively impacted by bans, overall, I believe it is a good policy to keep dogs off public streets for hygienic purposes and so that the rest of us can be safe. I am also glad that dogs will not be allowed to chase, stress, maim or kill ducks in parks. There has to be a halt to this kind of behavior!
A. St-Laurent says
I guess dogs out and about will be just another casualty of our inability or unwillingness – where, exactly, do you draw that line – to distinguish fact from fiction. It’s getting scary out there, and the pibble plague is just an incredibly potent and graphic symbol of what’s going on. Is it any wonder that people are still getting away with “They used to be nanny dogs,” when the new EPA chief flat-out denies carbon dioxide as a source of greenhouse gases?
Pinckney Wood says
I loved the “skid row” and “soup kitchen” pictures. They really gave me a good laugh.