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New date is April 17; changes in proposed ordinance would require another public hearing by Washington County commissioners.

Washington County commissioners have put off until April 17 a decision on whether to ban exotic animals as defined by state law.

But commissioners hinted Tuesday, Jan. 16, they are open to changes that would require another public hearing.

"I believe this deserves some additional attention," Commissioner Roy Rogers said. "I think we need some more thought, descriptions of some terms and a better understanding of what is occurring."

Commissioner Dick Schouten said the proposed effective date for the ban — 30 days after approval — is too soon.

If commissioners want to change what is proposed as an outright ban, they would have to conduct a follow-up hearing to the original Dec. 19 proceeding, which ran more than 90 minutes.

The county Health and Human Services Department has proposed the ordinance as a safety measure, not a land use regulation, applicable outside cities.

State law empowers counties and cities to ban "exotic animals," defined as non-domestic cats and dogs, non-native bears, alligators and crocodiles, and primates. Beaverton has such a ban.

Director Marni Kuyl said that between Dec. 20 and a cutoff of Jan. 12, the county received comments from 321 people — 236 against the proposed ban, 74 in favor, and 11 proposing changes but not taking a stand. At the board's request, a breakdown of Washington County responses had 30 in favor and 21 opposed to the ban.

During the Dec. 19 hearing, opponents of a ban were there largely in support of Walk on the Wild Side, a nonprofit that relocated in spring 2017 from Canby to a former horse farm near McKay Creek, south of Sunset Highway and north of Hillsboro.

A county hearings officer is weighing a separate recommendation to impose penalties for land-use violations, which the owners dispute.

No public comment was allowed at Tuesday's meeting, but Darin Campbell, a spokesman for the owners, said afterward, "It gives us breathing room."

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulate some animals.

Schouten said, "I think we need a better understanding of these different organizations and how they rate or certify these kind of animal activities, what impact they could have on this county, and on the people working in this field."

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