Dangerous-breed ban weighed

• After reports of dog attacks, City Council is considering what regulations are needed

By Damian Mann / (Medford) Mail Tribune

Published Jan 12, 2014 at 12:01AM

MEDFORD — A pit-bull ban or sterilization program are some of the steps the Medford City Council might consider to clamp down on a growing number of attacks by dangerous breeds.

In the past three years, 89 reports of dogs biting humans or other animals have been received by the Medford Police Department.

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.

The council could consider an outright ban on pit bulls or it could require sterilization, muzzling, special housing or liability insurance. The council could also decide not to change existing laws.

Councilor Karen Blair said recent attacks by dangerous dogs against other dogs prompted her to ask the city for more information about the issue.

“There are few people that can handle a dog that strong, particularly when its jaws naturally lock,” Blair said. “Irresponsible people bring unlicensed dogs to play in the middle of downtown.”

On Nov. 24, 2013, a grandmother was pushing her grandson in a stroller with a small dog walking alongside on a leash. A pit bull escaped from a fenced yard and attacked the little dog, which was later euthanized because of its injuries. The pit bull owner was cited for failing to control his dog.

On Sept. 27, 2013, three dogs, two of which were pit bulls, attacked another dog in a city ark. Police say bystanders punched and kicked the three dogs. The victim dog suffered a 6-inch gash and required $4,000 in veterinary bills. The attacking dogs were later euthanized.

Blair said she wants to review how other cities have dealt with dangerous dogs before coming to any conclusions.

In her own neighborhood, Blair said a neighbor who grows medical marijuana has two pit bulls that guard his crop.

She said she’s afraid of walking on that side of the street and is concerned the dogs could get loose and attack children in the neighborhood.

She said she has nothing against people who have pit bulls or other dogs, as long as they take full responsibility for them.

Some cities have banned pit bulls and other dangerous dogs from local parks.

Medford is considering adding small and large dog parks in Hawthorne Park as part of a $1.5 million remodeling effort.

“If we’re going to attempt to put a ridiculous dog park in the middle of Hawthorne Park, we need to know what we’re in for,” Blair said.

She said she would like first to see other ways of improving Hawthorne Park.

Other cities have opted for outright bans of pit bulls or sterilization of any pit bull.

Some Oregon cities, such as Nyssa and Malin, have placed restrictions on dangerous dogs. Baker City also is considering an ordinance restricting dangerous dogs.

In Idaho, Payette County has banned pit bulls. In California, San Francisco, San Bernardino and Riverside counties have opted for sterilization of pit bulls to curb their populations.

Many cities in Washington state also have enacted ordinances banning pit bulls.

City Councilor Bob Strosser said he hadn’t formed any opinions about ways to curb problems with dangerous dogs, though he thought the number of attacks locally was too high.

He said recent cases seem to underscore the fact that pit bulls are particularly likely to attack other animals, though he’s not sure how far the city should go in regulating dogs.