Dog problems persist in Grant County, and the latest incident left one canine dead in John Day.
Chris Labhart, a current county commissioner and former mayor, said he allowed a Lab mix he was walking as part of his animal care business off leash at the Seventh Street Complex Nov. 28, and the dog attacked and killed an off-leash Schnauzer another man was walking in the park.
Labhart said he had walked the dog for two years without incident. He said he was walking two dogs at the time, and he allowed both off their leashes because they had never been a problem before. He has operated his business, Claws and Paws, for about five years without any problems, he said.
“I’m not trying to hide it,” Labhart said. “It’s a horrible accident.”
Labhart was cited for maintaining dog as a nuisance, according to John Day Police Chief Richard Gray.
This incident is only the latest in a string of dog problems.
Sept. 18 in Canyon City, resident Judy Kerr shot a dog she said attacked her while she was walking her own dog. Despite initial claims by the dog owner that it was shot while moving away from Kerr, District Attorney Jim Carpenter said the dog appeared to have been shot in the front of its chest. He said Kerr was within her rights to defend herself, and no charges were filed in the incident.
At a Sept. 13 John Day City Council meeting, Tim Unterwegner said he and his wife carry pepper spray and a baseball bat in fear of dog attacks.
In August, Dayville resident Cindy Bolman received four stitches after jumping in to rescue a Corgie mix being attacked by a pit bull in John Day.
There have been 35 incidents of aggressive dogs since July 2015 with more than $3,000 paid in restitution to victims, according to Justice of the Peace Kathy Stinnett.
When a dog keeper is cited under Oregon state law, it can lead to multiple hearings where the district attorney, victims assistance and court collections get involved because someone did not maintain their dog properly, Stinnett said.
“I think everybody agrees it’s a social issue,” she said.
The John Day City Council considered adopting an ordinance to try to regulate and enforce aggressive dog activity. However, after receiving a coordinating draft of the ordinance, council members decided it would not meet the needs of the city and decided instead to continue education efforts.
City Manager Nick Green described the latest incident as “unfortunate” and “totally avoidable.”
Green said he would keep the city council apprised but felt he had reached a roadblock in the issue he wasn’t sure how to navigate.
“Short of an ordinance, I don’t know what measures are available to the city,” Green said, adding a countywide animal control solution seemed unlikely.