Changes include more leeway for impounding dogs that attack

Last month, a Bend girl was unexpectedly attacked by a dog at Ochoco Reservoir that resulted in several bites and scrapes.

Despite the physical harm and emotional toll the incident took on the 6-year-old, Crook County authorities, bound by state law, could not impound the animal.

The girl’s parents expressed frustration that the dog was left free to potentially attack someone else. Sergeant James Savage of Crook County Sheriff’s Office was similarly frustrated that nothing more could be done.

That may soon change.

The Crook County Court is currently considering a revised dog control ordinance that, among other things, will give local law enforcement more leeway in protecting people from dangerous dogs.

“We defined significant terms from the (Oregon Revised) Statute including ‘dangerous dog,’ ‘potentially dangerous dog,’ ‘menacing,’ and ‘keeper’ that were not in the previous ordinance,” said Crook County Counsel Jeff Wilson, who was asked to revise the county law.

He went on to say that the revision clarified prohibited conduct, and makes it a violation of the ordinance to maintain a dog that is a public nuisance. The definition of public nuisance was expanded to include dangerous dog and potentially dangerous dog.

Savage said the recent dog bite case affected the changes made to the ordinance, and he feels the new provisions will give them more latitude in future incidents.

“It gives us a lot more ability to act when the state statute does not give us those grounds,” he said. “It’s definitely helpful. The state statute was a bit confusing at times, and it is tough to enforce.”

Additional changes to the ordinance sought to streamline it and better enable enforcement. The proposed law declares Crook County a dog control district, which Wilson said the existing ordinance fails to do.

“That is important because under the state statute, if the county is declared a dog control district, the state statutes automatically apply within the district,” he said. “The problem with the prior ordinance was, although it talked about a dog control board, there was no specific reference to a declaration to make Crook County a dog control district.”

The revisions will also transfer the enforcement mechanism from a dog control board, which will be discontinued, to Crook County Circuit Court.

“It authorizes the county counsel’s office to appear in circuit court to enforce citations,” Wilson said, “and it establishes penalties for violations.”

The existing ordinance does not include penalty language, but the revised law will feature a maximum $500 penalty for a first offense, and up to $1,000 for a second offense within two years.

“We think that it is consistent with state law,” Wilson concluded, “and should address potential circumstances that arise in our community.”

The Crook County Court unanimously approved the new ordinance for its first reading and commissioners will likely vote on it again at their next regularly-scheduled meeting. If approved, it passes and will become law.

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