Leashed dogs will be allowed in a city of Ashland homeless shelter when it opens up in November.
The shelter will be open one night per week in a city building through April 2014.
A shelter was offered in Pioneer Hall last January through April, but didn't allow dogs. The City Council voted last week to allow the animals as long as they were kept on a leash.
First Presbyterian and Trinity Episcopal churches provide a homeless shelter one night per week and have allowed dogs with no serious incidents, city officials say.
Volunteers from Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and Temple Emek Shalom staffed the city's shelter last winter and will do so again, the groups say. The combined efforts of the city and faith groups means the homeless can find shelter three nights a week in Ashland.
City Councilor Pam Marsh — who was part of the majority that voted to allow leashed dogs in the city shelter — said the city and volunteers have excellent experience in running the weekly shelter program.
Councilor Greg Lemhouse said he loves dogs, but doesn't think they should be allowed in the city shelter if they are only secured by leashes.
"It's not prudent to knowingly put the city in a position of liability," Lemhouse said, adding that one bad incident could jeopardize the program.
Councilors had debated a proposal to require dogs to be kept in pet crates. But most felt that requirement would create problems because service dogs, by law, would have been exempt from crating.
Volunteers would have had difficulty determining which dogs were actual service dogs because laws limit their ability to question people about claimed disabilities.
Some people who don't appear to be disabled already hang out on the downtown Plaza with their dogs and tell police the animals are service dogs. Dogs are not allowed on the Plaza.
Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings.