Oregon city adds teeth to its dog-bite ordinance

MEDFORD, Ore. — Three bites and you’re out!

Owners of dangerous dogs could face tough penalties if an ordinance being considered by the Medford City Council wins approval.

Under the proposed law, dog owners convicted of three or more violations in a year could be fined up to $1,000 and spend up to a year in jail. The violations include cases where a dog inflicts injury on a person or animal.

The Mail Tribune newspaper reported the proposed rules are an outgrowth of complaints that dogs and people have been attacked in Medford, particularly in city parks.

The council earlier this year considered a breed-specific ordinance that would target pit bulls, but backed down after receiving complaints.

“The constant theme for me was punish the deed, not the breed,” police Chief Tim George said.

Medford police have issued 39 citations this year to dog owners who haven’t properly controlled their animals. A single citation under the current law can lead to a $250 fine. Besides citations, officers have been handing out blue leashes to owners of unleashed pets.

Under the proposed ordinance, a dog owner also could be cited if an animal defecates in a public place and the owner fails to clean up the feces. Citations could be issued for dogs that chase vehicles or people, scatter garbage or run at large in a public place, unless it’s in a dog park.

A dog owner could also be cited if an animal creates fear of an imminent physical injury.

Though most councilors seemed favorable to the ordinance at a meeting Thursday, at least one questioned whether police have time to go after offenders.

“To me this is something that is mission impossible,” said Councilor Chris Corcoran, who also noted that the jail has had issues with overcrowding.

Kevin McConnell, deputy city attorney, assured Corcoran there will be space.

“There will be a jail bed made available for them,” he said.

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