May 14, 2003 11:00 pm

Dogs are wonderful companions. But keeping one demands responsibility on the part of pet owners. Dogs can become nuisances if owners don't act responsibly and take care of their animals.

With spring in the air and more people out and about, it's important that dog owners realize there are laws that must be adhered to concerning dogs. Dogs running at large, barking excessively or allowed to defecate in public areas or on others' property are nuisances — and that means more than simply being bothersome to neighbors or others. County ordinance defines nuisance as it pertains to dogs. All dog owners need to be aware of their responsibility.

Dogs are nuisances, and their owners subject to fines, if a dog:

• Is repeatedly found at large.

• Damages the property of anyone other than its owner.

• Molests or intimidates pedestrians or passersby.

• Chases vehicles.

• Excessively makes disturbing noises such as repeated howling, barking, whining for more than 15 minutes or intermittent barking for more than 30 minutes in a 60-minute period.

• Causes fouling of air by odor and is in close proximity of neighbors.

• Scatters garbage.

• Is a female in heat and allowed to run at large.

• Deposits excreta on public areas, recreation areas or on private property not belonging to the owner.

Owners of dogs found to be violating the county's animal control ordinance are subject to various fines. Avoiding fines and the wrath of neighbors is easy if dog owners act responsibly concerning their pets.

If you own a dog, love it, take care of it and be responsible for it. Don't allow it to run at large or to bark repeatedly, and make sure you pick up after it when taking it for walks or to the park.

Tragic month

Be careful out on the highways, folks. Spring is here and with it comes an annual spike in the number of highway deaths. The number of fatalities on Oregon roads in April provides a grim reminder that we all need to be careful.

Overall, Oregon has been doing pretty well when it comes to highway safety. In 2002, the number of traffic fatalities — 426 — was the lowest since 1956. But then April 2003 hit. Forty-two people were killed on Oregon's highways. That's more than twice the number killed in April last year.

The highway death count doesn't usually take a jump until May, when highway construction projects, high school proms and graduations take their toll on drivers.

We all need to do what we can to make sure April was an aberration, not a harbinger of things to come. Please drive safely.