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New law gives county teeth to stop barking dogs

Mediation, fines funded by boosting county dog licenses


Tim McFarland feels like a prisoner on his own 4.89 acres outside of Canby.

“I can’t talk on my property. I can’t blow my nose. I can’t open an outside gate,” McFarland told Clackamas County commissioners. “I can’t stand out there and water my own backyard.”

Why not? Because, according to him, each time he does, two neighboring dogs start barking incessantly.

“This has been going on for nine years,” he said.

In response to McFarland’s and many other similar complaints, commissioners voted unanimously July 17 to adopt an amendment allowing mediation and fines for owners of dogs who bark for longer than 15 minutes at a time or repeatedly for short periods totaling more than 45 minutes per day.

Those who came to testify at the commission’s public hearing on the matter described dogs who are ruining their lives by barking for many hours at a time.

Sunny Graham, a longtime resident of Oak Lodge, said the four dogs next door bark for three to eight hours, day and night.

Commissioner Tootie Smith said she reluctantly would support the measure though she wished it weren’t necessary to regulate what she felt should just be good neighborly behavior.

“I’m the one who’s probably going to get attacked the most for voting yes on this,” Smith said, because of her antiregulatory stance. But, she added: “It’s the most complaints we get at the (Board of County Commissioners) office.”

“I could have told you that dogs are one of the biggest issues,” Commissioner Martha Schrader responded with a laugh.

Smith laughed, too. “Maybe you did, and I didn’t listen.”

Safety training

Commissioner Jim Bernard said public testimony swayed his vote but that he still will keep a close eye on the program.

“I just think it’s extremely sad that we have to do this,” Bernard said. “I’m going to watch this and make sure this program does pay for itself. Otherwise, it’s not a program that I would support.”

The program is estimated to cost $160,000. Because of the emphasis on low-cost mediation and the expectation that around 90 percent of complaints will be resolved early in the five-step complaint process, administrators expect the program to only bring in about $13,000 to $19,000. The additional $144,000 will be raised through a $6 increase in the dog license fee. Clackamas County Dog Services would need to hire two new employees, one to take the calls and dispatch the other to check them out.

Bernard said he is concerned about safety training for the new employee charged with walking up to deliver bad news to owners of possibly aggressive dogs. “That’s a dangerous position to put somebody in who is not trained.”

Compliance changes

The amendment to Title 5 will include other changes to comply with recent state legislation regarding animal rescue facilities, tethering restrictions and minimum-care requirements. Applicants for a multiple-dog license will have the option to get an inspection from a veterinarian instead of the county.

The second reading of the new law — before it is scheduled to take effect Jan. 8, 2015 — is at the 10 a.m. business meeting July 31 at 2051 Kaen Road in Oregon City. Find more information on the new continuous annoyance dog program and helpful tips on reducing dog barking at www.clackamas.us/dogs.

Read a draft of the proposed five-step process for filing a continous annoyance dog complaint.