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Friday, April 3, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Outdoors blog

Possible solutions to unleashed dog problems include bans, bear spray, cattle prods, tickets, guns

According to Spokane County law, dogs are required to be on leash when hiking in park areas such as the Dishman Hills. The fine has been increased to $99 since the signs were made. (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)
According to Spokane County law, dogs are required to be on leash when hiking in park areas such as the Dishman Hills. The fine has been increased to $99 since the signs were made. (Rich Landers / The Spokesman-Review)


HIKING -- Feedback to my story about issues with off-leash dogs in Spokane-area parks and conservation areas is running the gamut.

Some people are saying that the Spokane County leash law (Spokane County Code 5.04.070) is unfair to people with well-behaved dogs.

Former Spokane County Commissioner Mark Richard says he started carrying a weapon while hiking with his dogs after a terrifying incident with three loose Rottweilers and their clueless owners.

A woman who trains service dogs emailed me and said she's started carrying a stun-gun to protect herself and her dogs if necessary.

A man who hikes with his dog in the Dishman Hills started carrying bear spray after the first time he was attacked. Since then, he's had to use the bear spray on two occasions to fend off biting attacks to him and his dog -- and then he had to use the spray on the owners that were going to get him for it.

After one of my personal scary experiences with unleashed dogs in Mount Spokane State Park, I suggested the perfect remedy might be a hiking pole with a built in cattle prod.  A poke to an aggressive dog would not only ward off the attack, it also would apply a shock that would be an avoidance-style training lesson.

Salem, Oregon, has hired a city parks ranger with duties that emphasize educating and writing tickets to abusers of the Oregon state capital city's leash law.

In Portland, Oregon, city parks offer off-leash hours, according to a reader who contacted me by email.  "The hours varied in times so there was always a park in your neighborhood that you could take your dogs to.  It was great.  Hours were cancelled if there was poop found so it was self regulating.  People would let you have it, if you didn't pick up the waste.... People who didn't want to be around off-leash dogs could avoid those hours."

By coincidence to my leash-law story today, a story has moved out of  Eugene, Oregon, reporting the city has started getting tough on loose dogs.  This case applies to the urban core rather than hiking trails and parks.  But it's an unfortunate a solution that may be used more often anyplace where aggressive dog complaints continue to come in to local government leaders.  Here's the story just posted by the Associated Press:

Oregon city bans dogs downtown for owners not living there

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) – A wave of complaints about aggressive dogs in the downtown area of Oregon’s third most populous city has prompted Eugene city councilors to ban dogs from the downtown area except those owned by people who live or work there.

The Eugene City Council Wednesday voted 6-2 to approve the ban that takes effect in April and will expire in November unless there’s another vote to extend it.

Violators could be fined as much as $250 per offense.

While ban supporters said it was needed because of a rise in complaints by downtown residents and workers of encounters with aggressive dogs, The Register-Guard reported ( that critics claimed the real intent was to displace homeless people and their dogs.

Councilor Chris Pryor said the ordinance was modeled after a dog ban for a commercial strip next to the University of Oregon.

“I’m not using dogs as a way to get rid of people I don’t like downtown,” Pryor said. “That’s not my goal here.”

Councilor Emily Semple voted against the ban because she said “it does exclude homeless people because they have nowhere to leave their dog.” Dogs, she added, give the homeless “companionship, protection and warmth.”

In one downtown incident, a dog attacked a dog owned by a city library employee, killing the employee’s dog and injuring the employee, said Councilor Betty Taylor.

She called the incident terrifying but voted against the ordinance.

“We don’t ban a whole class (of people) just because something bad happens,” she said.

The ordinance does not apply to service dogs for disabled people, police dogs and dogs inside motor vehicles.

It also exempts an area in front of a downtown location that serves hundreds of free lunches four days a week.

Rich Landers
Rich Landers joined The Spokesman-Review in 1977. He is the Outdoors editor for the Sports Department writing and photographing stories about hiking, hunting, fishing, boating, conservation, nature and wildlife and related topics.

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