City council ponders potential pit bull ordinance

By Terri Harber, WesCom News Service October 11, 2013 11:40 am
BAKER CITY — It isn’t whether something should be done — it’s a question of what should be done to protect residents from potentially dangerous dogs, Baker City councilors determined during their meeting on Tuesday.

The councilors heard from several people about a proposal to regulate ownership of pit bulls in the wake of the Sept. 27 death of a 5-year-old Baker City boy who was attacked by a pit bull.

“We had a very tragic day in our community,” said Police Chief Wyn Lohner, who has heard from many residents about the matter. 

“A lot of people feel passionately about the topic — one way or the other,” Lohner said.

The city will form a committee to help write an ordinance that will address concerns about potentially dangerous dogs and how the city should regulate their ownership.

Lohner will lead the committee, and councilor Kim Mosier will serve as the City Council’s representative.

Councilors didn’t decide how many members the committee will have, or how the city will go about finding local residents interested in serving.

Some residents who spoke to councilors Tuesday have children the same age as Jordan Ryan, the 5-year-old Baker City boy who died Sept. 27 after being attacked by pit bull while at the home of the family friend.

Christine Weideman said her youngest child attended kindergarten with Jordan.

She described walking her own dog and coming across a man who was walking a pit bull.

The pit bull didn’t bark, but it used its mouth to grab her dog by the head, Weideman said. The pit bull owner had to kick his dog to get it to loosen its grip, she said.

In another incident, a pit bull had been chained up in the backyard behind hers. There was no fence. One day the pit bull got loose and killed one of her chickens, Weidemann said.

“I want to see an ordinance that will protect our children, protect our community,” she said.

Among things she would like to see in such an ordinance: That the pit bull breed is classified as dangerous; that an adult always be with the dog when it’s outside; and that day care facilities can’t have these dogs around.

Also important, Weideman said, is that the owners provide proof of having an adequate kennel, fencing and a prominent warning sign that makes people aware of a dangerous dog. It would have to be a sign without words so a young child could understand it. 

Weideman also suggests owners be required to carry insurance or a bond on the dog of $250,000. That would be an adequate amount to cover care after a mauling, including “reconstructive surgery,” she said.

Richard Haines, president of New Hope for Eastern Oregon Animals and a Baker Valley resident, said he hopes the ordinance won’t focus only on controlling pit bulls. 

The American Veterinary Medical Association and American Bar Association both oppose breed-specific rules, Haines said.

The breeds considered pit bulls are American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier and American Pit Bull Terrier.