The Chronicle -

By Erin Tierney
The Creswell Chronicle 

Community is being 'hounded' by dogs at large

 

April 5, 2018

There has been an heightened community concern regarding loose or aggressive dogs in Creswell, leaving residents to wonder about ordinances and what can be done to better control the situation.

What may not be common knowledge is that the City of Creswell is responsible for their own animal control, and does not rely on any outside resources for assistance.

"Lane County Animal Services operates in unincorporated areas of Lane County (outside city limits)," said Devon Ashbridge, public information officer for Lane County Animal Control. "Cities are responsible for establishing and maintaining services within city limits, including Creswell."

Lane County currently only has one fulltime animal welfare officer, Ashbridge said, but are in the process of adding another halftime animal welfare officer.

Although the City has contracted with the Lane County Sheriff's Office, the City's Code Enforcement Officer Shelley Humble must shoulder animal control responsibilities in lieu of an animal services officer.

"The sheriff's office is just conduit for citation service in that process," Creswell's LCSO Sergeant Scott Denham said.

Denham said that deputies only have the authority to take action on the spot if they actually see a violation themselves. They cannot issue citations under citizen claims, and if the incident does not occur in a deputy's presence, the officer can not legally give a citation for the violation.

"LCSO patrol deputies throughout the county have the ability to enforce ordinances in a contracted city or anywhere in the county," Denham said. "However, state law dictates that we cannot cite for a violation of anything that does not happen in our presence - unless it is in the investigation of a traffic crash, marijuana possession or consumption, or treating a crime as a violation - such as a Theft 3 cited into municipal court as a violation instead of a crime to the district attorney."

He said that, typically throughout the county, patrol does not respond to "dog at large" calls or even dangerous behavior - unless it is in the act of occurring and presents some type of dangerous situation, Denham said.

"This is the same way that contract deputies respond. If it is in progress, we will handle it," Denham said. "If found that a dangerous situation or dog at large is happening, we will cite it if necessary. That was the case in the incident on 2nd (Street) and Creswood (Drive), where the dogs were loose when we got there and had just killed a cat."

Denham is referencing an incident that occured in November 2017 in the City, where two German Jagdterriers were sentenced to euthanasia after the dogs gruesomely killed a neighbor's cat during a dogfight.

Citations are referred to the municipal court and adjudicated as a citizen complaint, the same manner in which noise, nuisance and other citizen complaints are handled, Denham said.

Dog-related ​fines in Lane County range anywhere from $165 to $440, Denham said. A C Violation in both Creswell and the State is $165, a B Violation is $265 and an A Violation is $440.

"The only animal regulation that goes above that is 'Maintaining a Dangerous Dog,' which is a C Misdemeanor, with a fine above $1,000. That does not include leash laws, etc., which can be in the D violation range at $115."

On city code violations, such as Dogs at Large, there are some presumptive fees attached, so some of the animal offense fines are higher in the City, he said.

If Creswell deputies come upon a dog at large, Denham said the deputies attempt to secure it, turn the dog over to the City, and defer to the City for action.

"In some cases, we will choose to cite the owner, especially if it is a habitual offense that we are aware of," Denham said. "For instance, if the dogs on Ash Grove Court are found by deputies to be at large, we will seize them and a citation will be issued before they can get them back."

Regarding how neighboring cities handle dog issues, a few years ago, both Eugene and Springfield funded actual animal control officers and instituted their own systems, Denham said. The County made a rule that they will not provide animal services within incorporated cities, so they have to provide their own.

Denham said that the City of Veneta accomplishes this by having a code compliance officer who also handles all court proceedings. The compliance officer works in the same office as the deputies and they can share information better.

"Granted, Veneta has a larger budget than Creswell, so this works for them personnel-wise," Denham said. "In Creswell's case, our code enforcement officer also works as the airport manager, so the dynamic of work is much different."

RESPONSIBILITIES OF DOG OWNERSHIP

Joanne O'Brien has had run-ins with loose and aggressive dogs in Creswell since moving here In October 2017.

She said that after less than two weeks of living in Creswell, she was walking her dogs on leashes when another woman's leashed pitbull across the street came after them. She said the pitbull attacked her one dog, which fought back. The pitbull then tried to kill her more passive dog. She said the owner eventually pulled her dog off of O'Brien's dogs, but in a circumstance like that, people aren't going to be concerned with getting the name and address of the dog owner; people are shaken up and more concerned about getting their dogs to safety.

"We had to get away from there, away from that situation," she said at a recent council meeting.

She said after that incident, she's talked with several people who all agree there is a disproportionate number of loose and aggressive dogs in this community.

She said that people who are attacked by dogs are oftentimes traumatized, and she has seen this occur in Creswell.

"My own personal review of recent accounts in Creswell cites psychological trauma and fear of walking around the town," O'Brien said. "Many of these individuals have suffered prior traumatic physical/psychological injury. People talk about leaving the community to walk/run outdoors due to this problem."

She said she wants to be part of the solution, so education on proper dog care is a good starting point.

"The owner is the problem, not the dog," she said.

O'Brien said that dogs with past histories of aggression should not be left outside unless they are contained in a physically secured area - not by an invisible fence.

She said that if dogs are left alone for extended periods of time, they will become destructive and potentially aggressive. This is especially prevalent for very loyal breeds such as pitbull mixes, as they always want to interact with their owners, she said.

She said owners need to research and learn as much as possible about their dog's breed and the history of the breed before adopting or purchasing, because all breeds have their own quirks and needs.

KNOW THE LAWS

DOGS AT LARGE

"Dog at large" refers to a dog inside city limits that is not under control of a leash and is not accompanied by the owner. A dog owner is deemed negligent and responsible for their dog at large for any property damages or injuries caused.

If you find a dog at large that is not aggressive, citizens can take the dog to City Hall. The City is required to keep the animal sheltered safely and provide it with sufficient food and water. The dog can be housed in a kennel there for up to 72 hours until the owner is found, or until the animal is transferred to Cottage Grove Humane Society.

If a lost animal is brought into City Hall, they will attempt to find the owners. City employees may be able to take the dog to the vet and see if an informational chip has been inserted, or can go through dog licenses to try to find a match. If city employees are unable to find the owner, the dog will be transferred to the Humane Society.

If your dog is missing, the first step is to call City Hall and see if your dog has been found. The City will also post briefs descriptions and photos of found animals on their website.

DANGEROUS ANIMALS

If a dog at large poses a threat of causing serious injury to humans, domestic animals or property, court-ordered restrictions may be put in place.

There are three levels the City uses to establish the danger level of the dog. The first level is established if an aggressive dog at large threatens the safety of livestock or domestic animals. The court may order the dog to be restricted by a physical device or structure that prevents the dog from reaching any public right-of-way or adjoining property. Additionally, if the animal is off the owner's property, the dog must be on a leash that does not exceed six feet long and must be in accompanied by an adult 18 years or older.

The second level is reached if the dog threatens the safety of any person; repercussions include requiring the owner to post warning signs on the property where the animal is kept and to confine the animal within a proper enclosure, or inside the home.

The third level is reached is if the dog at large causes injury to any domestic or livestock animal, kills any domestic animal, or causes injury or death to any person. If this level is reached, dogs are not allowed off the owner's property unless the dog is muzzled, restrained by a leash and under control of a person age 18 or older.

In certain circumstances under the third level, the dog may be euthanized. In addition, the municipal judge has the authority to suspend, for a period of time, the dog owner's right to own any dog in the City, including dogs currently owned by that person.

However, these codes may not be enforced if the victim illegally tresspasses on the property where the dog lives, or if the victim was found to torment the animal before the attack.

Additionally, dogs that have engaged in aggressive behavior will be required to wear an identifying collar with an ID tag issued by the City, and the owner will be subject to subsequent fines and fees.

Officials may impound the dog if it is in violation of these codes, and may hold the dog until the hearing is over, any fine is paid and any reasonable restrictions are in place or are agreed to.

To find out more information, call City Hall at 541-895-2531, email [email protected] or call Lane County Sheriff's non-emergency line at 541-682-4150. You can also check out the Municipal Code for animal control in Creswell by visiting the City's website at https://goo.gl/EcNgN1.

 
 

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