Washington County Gets a New Pet Code

If you live in Oregon's Washington County and you have a wandering cat, a yappy pup that annoys the neighbors, or you fail to pick up after your dog, there’s news for you: revised animal control laws are taking effect, and they just might affect you.

On January 20, 2015, Washington County's Board of Commissioners unanimously approved sweeping changes to take effect February 20. The changes include:

Establishment of Dangerous Dog Categories: 

Under the old enforcement codes, if a dog bit someone there was no consideration of circumstances, and the dog could be labeled "dangerous.”  The revamped codes will address that generalization.

"These changes will allow officers to look at the current situation and assess the dog based on the circumstances surrounding the incident," says Randy Covey, Washington County Animal Services Field Supervisor.

Class A Dogs: Those who have caused substantial physical harm to a person or another animal;

Class B Dogs: Those who have a biting incident but not a serious mauling;

Class C Dogs: Those who exhibit aggressive behavior while running loose.

There are increasing fines, fees and supervision required, depending upon classification of the dog.

Recognizing Cats:

"The old code is archaic in that not only is there no clear definition of neglect or abuse, it doesn't even mention cats," says Covey.

The new code rectifies that, and also requires owners to take responsibility for their pets. While leashes and licensing won't be mandated, residents will be within their rights to confiscate a cat on their property and take it to the shelter as a stray. Shelter staff will then try to reunite the cat with its owner, who will hopefully keep the cat confined to his or her own property in the future.

Failure to Scoop Fines:

Learn to use a pooper-scooper — or at least a plastic bag — otherwise, you're facing a ticket. An estimated 15 percent of fecal bacteria in local streams comes from dog waste, according to Clean Water Services, making this a serious public health issue.

Licensing Animal Rescues:

In addition to an inspection of their record-keeping systems, rescue facilities will be required to obtain a $100 annual permit.

Guidelines for Barking Dogs:

Whether or not you find a barking dog a nuisance is often subjective; however, the new code defines it as any dog barking continuously for five minutes in any 15-minute period. Owners may be fined if they don't quiet their canine.

Other changes:

Laws that specify leash length, a requirement that vets report rabies inoculations to the county, and the sale of animals in public places are all addressed in the revised codes as well.

For a full look and more details, go to http://www.co.washington.or.us/HHS/AnimalServices/proposed-code-changes.cfm

Michele Coppola is a veteran Portland radio personality and copywriter for Entercom Radio as well as the new Managing Editor for Spot Magazine. She shares a home and couch space with her three rescue pooches Lucy, Bailey, and Ginny--as well as Bryon, the stray man she married six years ago.