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Law change is good, but all are responsible for dog safety

Last month, when a 6-year-old Bend girl was unexpectedly attacked by a lab-pit bull mix at Ochoco Reservoir, local authorities could not impound the animal.

Bound by following state statute, Crook County officials could not remove the dog unless the injuries sustained met a certain threshold.

Understandably, the parents of the girl were outraged. The dog left several gruesome-looking bite and scratch wounds on the arms and legs of the girl, and though the bites were not life-threatening, the girl expressed a fear of dying while her injuries were treated in the hospital.

The parents weren’t the only frustrated people as Crook County Sergeant James Savage voiced his displeasure with the situation.

Now, it seems, revisions have been made to county dog control laws that provide local authorities more leeway in determining when an attacking animal should be taken into custody. Hopefully, if God forbid something like this happens again, the county can remove the animal and perhaps prevent future attacks.

The ordinance is an encouraging reaction to a troubling incident, and it’s good to see county leaders make changes that will hopefully protect citizens going forward. They have done their part — but the responsibility doesn’t end with them.

Dog owners have a stake in the safety of others as well. While we understand that some animals just snap, catching even their caretakers by surprise, it is crucial to not only know your dog, but keep them under control in public settings to the best of your ability.

If your dog’s breed has a reputation for attacking others, keep them on a leash and away from children and other people who may unintentionally set them off. If you can’t do that, don’t bring them to public settings and risk jeopardizing others’ safety.

Lastly, members of the public have an ongoing responsibility to protect themselves. Most of us have probably been told or read somewhere that you should never try to touch or approach a dog that you don’t know. It is paramount that those with young children pass that advice on to them.

While bad things can happen when people are doing the right things – the girl who was attacked asked the owner before touching it, and the owner had the dog on a leash – we would hope that the revised laws, coupled with continual vigilance by dog owners and the rest of the public, will ultimately result in very few incidents like the one at Ochoco Reservoir.

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