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MailTribune.com
  • Medford could put teeth into dog-owner penalties

    Police chief says rules would 'punish the deed, not the breed'
  • Athree-strikes law could find owners of dangerous dogs facing fines and jail time under an ordinance being considered by the Medford City Council.
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  • A three-strikes law could find owners of dangerous dogs facing fines and jail time under an ordinance being considered by the Medford City Council.
    Medford police Chief Tim George provided the council on Thursday with proposed codes that would create new rules for dog owners and provide increasingly harsher penalties for repeat offenders.
    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.
    A single bite that is Intentional, reckless or with criminal negligence could be enough to be considered a criminal act under the new law if it injures a person or a dog. Corrected: 9:35 a.m.
    The proposed rules are an outgrowth of complaints that dogs and people have been attacked in Medford, particularly in city parks.
    The council generally supported the proposed laws, which will be voted on at a council meeting.
    Earlier this year, the council considered creating a breed-specific ordinance that would target pit bulls, which have been involved in most of the bite cases.
    After the city received complaints from residents, it backed down from going after pit bulls specifically.
    "The constant theme for me was punish the deed, not the breed," George said.
    As a result, the proposed changes to the code are geared more toward dog owners than dogs.
    Medford police have issued 39 citations this year to dog owners who haven't properly controlled their animals. A single citation under existing law can lead to a $250 fine.
    In addition to citations, police have been handing out blue leashes to dog owners whose animals are found to be running at large.
    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.
    Under the rule, a court could place additional conditions on a dog owner. The conditions could include confining a dangerous dog, installing warning signs that a dangerous dog is on a property and obtaining a bond of $250,000 that could be payable to anyone injured by the dog.
    Other conditions could include obtaining liability insurance of $250,000 with a $500 deductible, requiring spaying or neutering, suspending the right to own a dog, requiring a pet ownership class or imposing any additional conditions to protect public health, safety and welfare.
    Most councilors appeared to support the ordinance, but wondered whether police had the time to go after offenders.
    "To me this is something that is mission impossible," Councilor Chris Corcoran said, noting that the jail experiences issues with overcrowding, and police are stretched thin.
    Kevin McConnell, deputy city attorney, assured the council that repeat offenders will face penalties.
    "There will be a jail bed made available for them," he said.
    Councilor Bob Strosser said he thought two years would be more appropriate than one year to punish those who have violated the three-strikes rule.
    "One year is a little too short," he said.
    But the council generally thought the proposed laws addressed the concern about dangerous dogs.
    "This is a really good start for this," Mayor Gary Wheeler said.
    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.
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