The Medford, Oregon city council held a study session today to discuss “dangerous dogs” and ways to control a growing problem within the city. The council is considering all the options available, one of which is an ordinance that would target specific breeds.
I had the opportunity to speak at length with the city clerk this afternoon, after the study session, to follow up on the meeting. The council members reviewed information provided by the staff, including ordinances from other communities, as well as police data. The only decision made today was that much more deliberation is necessary before moving forward.
The council directed staff to work with a police advisory committee to come up with recommendations to address the issue and present to the council. The committee will be comprised of council members, police officers, and members of the community. The biggest decision they will be weighing is whether dogs should be determined dangerous by their behavior or by their breed. The clerk indicated the city is looking for answers, and they are extremely open to suggestions.
Recent dog-on-dog attacks, one resulting in the death of a small dog, sparked the decision to discuss animal control issues. In addition, city council meeting minutes reflect that residents have recently approached officials about not feeling safe to walk on their streets due to loose dogs.
Another problem the city is experiencing is the criminal element using “pit bulls” for intimidation, guarding their drug houses, etc., and the resulting issues this creates for police.
According to the Mail Tribune, 89 reports of dogs biting humans or other animals have been received by the Medford Police Department in the past three years. The Tribune went on to say that “pit bulls” were involved in half the attacks, and “pit bulls or pit bull mixes” were responsible for eight of the 11 fatal attacks on other animals. I would recommend residents do their own research, and call or visit the police department to get accurate statistics and also inquire as to the manner in which breed identification was made.
While many of the city councilors expressed during the study session that the target of any new ordinance should be dangerous and reckless owners who create problem dogs, it appears the push to regulate pit bulls is being driven by the city police due to dogs they allege to be “pit bulls” which they encounter while enforcing the laws their criminal owners are breaking. Police Chief Tim George asserts that his officers are readily capable of determining if a dog is or is not a “pit bull” based on visual identification. In support of this incredibly ignorant assertion, Chief George advised that “if it looks like it, acts like it and walks like it, it is [a pit bull].”
Well there you go, folks…who needs the scientific data and testimony based on research by veterinarians and animal welfare professional that visual breed identification is NOT a reliable method to determine a dog’s breed when you’ve got Chief George’s theory?
The clerk stressed that the Medford city council doesn’t make rash decisions, and they put much time and effort into the issues before them, and that this would be no exception. Once the Advisory Committee puts their recommendations together, they will then present them to the council, likely in another study session. A hearing would then be held to get the public’s input before moving the issue forward.
The city’s biggest concern is community safety, but they also want a solution that is reasonable to all sides. As stated above, they are open to suggestions, and residents should reach out to their council members and talk to them about their concerns with breed specific legislation and the evidence demonstrating that breed discriminatory ordinances do not enhance community safety and, in fact, actually make a community more vulnerable to dangerous dogs and their irresponsible and reckless owners.
The clerk also advised that the local paper tends to over- sensationalize their stories, and residents should contact city officials directly for the most accurate information or status on the situation. She also indicated that council agendas, news and updates are available via e-mail for those who sign up for them via the city’s website.
Please send your polite, respectful and informative opposition to breed discriminatory legislation to the Medford city officials listed below. Since they are also reviewing existing ordinances, providing them with strong, breed-neutral ordinances that focus on irresponsible owners, as well as education programs and incentives, would be a good idea to send along, too.
Another excellent tool is the Best Friends Fiscal Impact Calculator, which indicates that a breed specific ordinance would cost the city over $120,000 annually. The link is found to the right on our blogroll, and also provides specific talking points related to Medford.
We also recommend sending city officials the NAIA publication “A Guide to Constructing Successful, Pet Friendly ordinances.” The guide has some excellent points that would help the city officials make a more informed and educated decision that does not involve regulating certain breeds of dogs.
As always, please be polite and respectful in all your communications with city officials. While we obviously don’t agree with some of the options on the table, a solution that benefits the entire community, people and animals, can be reached when the parties are willing to listen and work together.
The statistics are on our side, it is well documented that breed specific legislation does not create safer communities, and by providing this essential information to the city council, they will come to the conclusion that a breed-neutral approach is the best way to go.
Medford, Oregon city officials:
Gary Wheeler – Mayor
Karen Blair – Councilmember Ward 2
Daniel Bunn – Councilmember Ward 4
Chris Corcoran – Councilmember Ward 3
Dick Gordon – Councilmember Ward 1
Tim Jackle – Councilmember Ward 1
Eli Matthews – Councilmember Ward 2
John Michaels – Councilmember Ward 3
Bob Strosser – Councilmember Ward 4
City of Medford, Oregon
411 W. 8th Street
Medford, OR 97501
Phone: (541) 774 2017
Fax: (541) 618-1700