County to update dog laws, fees

Hood River County raised its dog licensing fees and appointed a special committee to review the animal enforcement laws.

Passed Feb. 4 by the Board of Commissioners, the new fees will take effect in 30 days. The rate schedule was separated from the animal control code to simplify the process for periodic adjustments. The price increases for dog tags and "bail" are the first since the early '90s, according to Becky Hoffman, animal control officer. At that time she said pet owners were also allowed to buy tags by the calendar year and no longer required to purchase them each January.

Local pet owners will now pay $9 to license their spay/neutered canines and $25 for unaltered dogs. The senior citizen discount for tags will be $5 for spay/neutered animals and $17 for those not fixed. In addition, the cost to free impounded dogs, previously set at $20, will start at that amount and graduate to a maximum of $100 for "repeat offenders" during a 12-month period.

The decision to raise the cost of licensing followed last week's announcement by the Wasco County Animal Shelter that charges were going up about 52 percent for use of that facility. In 1995 the county contracted to impound stray and vicious dogs to Wasco County after a local pet store relocated and was no longer able to provide kennel space.

Hood River Undersheriff Dwayne Troxel will head the new ad hoc Animal Control System Review Committee. Its other nine members will include Hoffman, legal counsel from the Wyers-Haskell law firm, City Police Captain Kevin Lynch, Cascade Locks Mayor Roger Freeborn, and Dr. Jeff Osborn, veterinarian. It will also have citizen representation from Joan Fowler, Chris Emerson, Sue Guenther, Tina Schmidt and Karen Donahue.

"We will basically be taking a look at the way we do business with animal enforcement in general," said Troxel, who believes the group's work will be done by summer.

He said the committee will make rewrite recommendations to the 1979 animal control ordinance to eliminate any ambiguities and update it with new state laws.

For example, the county board struck language on Feb. 4 that allowed citizens to file legal complaints, an action that must be taken by law enforcement officials under current state law. Last year, Hood River resident Mo Stevenson won the appeal of a county decision to euthanize her dog "Kiss Kiss" because the complaint against the animal was filed by the citizen walking the dog that had been attacked.

The county board asked Troxel at Monday's meeting to report back monthly on the progress of the new committee, which will also study possible alternatives for kenneling Hood River dogs. These options include expanding facilities already operated by a local veterinarian or building a separate shelter. The county had previously set aside $30,000 of seed money for that project and an additional $8,000 was raised during a community-wide fundraising drive between 1996-99. That effort died away after the committee encountered numerous obstacles, including lengthy debate over the most suitable location for the structure.

The county determined it would be cheaper to utilize the services provided by Wasco, especially if it had to hire staff to run a facility. Although the new ad hoc committee is intended to only serve on a short-term basis, the county board expressed willingness to entertain a recommendation for a standing committee if needed.

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