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Pit-bull owner gathers signatures opposed to city action against mean dogs

A petition seeking to thwart any efforts to ban pit bulls in Medford has raised more than 5,000 signatures so far, attracting attention from as far away as Germany.

Tyler Woodard, a 23-year-old Medford pit bull owner who started the petition on a website called "Care 2 Make a Difference," said 75 percent of those who signed so far appear to be from this area. The petition can be seen at www.care2.com/go/z/pitbullban

"It's still going strong," he said.

At its noon meeting Thursday in City Hall, Medford City Council, which has received about 100 emails and many phone calls on the issue, will create a committee to study enforcement measures to deal with unruly dogs and their irresponsible owners.

The committee will hold public hearings and receive public comments. The dates will be announced.

Councilor Dan Bunn said he will ask the council to have a good cross section of Medford residents, including possibly a pit-bull owner.

Bunn and other council members have so far expressed a reluctance to ban any specific breed.

After the hearings, the committee will report back to City Council by the second week of April, offering a stair-step enforcement plan to deal with residents who are repeat offenders, as well as a measure to deal with dangerous dogs.

Last week, the council learned that 89 cases of dog bites on other animals or humans had been reported in the past three years, with half the bites by pit bulls or pit bull mixes.

Woodard, like a lot of pit bull owners, said dog owners should be faulted for their pets' bad behavior, not the animals themselves.

Woodard, who has two pit bulls and a shar-pei/boxer mix, said he tries to be a responsible pet owner, but has had a few brushes with police from neighbor complaints.

He has a short backyard fence, and a neighbor girl got close to the fence and got knocked over by his dogs. The mother called police.

He said he barricaded the backyard to prevent his dogs from causing any more problems. Other times his dogs have escaped from his front yard and chased neighbor dogs, but they haven't bitten anything, he said.

Woodard said he didn't think his dogs should be penalized as long as they aren't biting and attacking someone.

"We don't need to be punishing the dogs," he said. "Give me a $1,000 fine. Put me in jail instead."

However, if a dog does attack someone and cause injuries, police should be able to remove it from a neighborhood, Woodard said.

As a result of recent concerns about pit bulls, Woodard said he's heard of owners abandoning dogs around town.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.