Lebanon Police Chief Frank Stevenson believes that euthanizing a dog should be a step of last resort for communities.
That belief led him to request changes to the City of Lebanon’s dangerous dog ordinance providing his department and the Municipal Court more flexibility in handling these cases.
That ordinance was discussed and then unanimously approved in the Jan. 8 public session of the Lebanon City Council.
Stevenson said the existing ordinance gave him very little discretion in handling these cases and it provided the Municipal Court with even less.
“There were some things within that ordinance that I just didn’t feel necessary or right,” Stevenson said.
In particular, he didn’t support the strict requirement of euthanasia in cases where a dog may have been provoked or protecting its own space.
“A cat jumps into a back yard, gets killed by a dog, that dog could be declared dangerous and be required to be put down,” Stevenson said. “I wanted to have a little bit more oversight and review of whether or not this dog is deserving of euthanization, or not.”
Lebanon City Attorney Tre Kennedy said the ordinance also makes the Municipal Court the venue for all hearings and appeals in these cases.
“These were fairly minor amendments but that’s going to make the chief’s job, not necessarily easier, but probably more appropriate, where appeals are going to spend more time with the judge and not with the chief,” Kennedy said.
Stevenson said that in the past he has attempted to mediate civil solutions between parties in some of these cases in order to avoid euthanizing a dog.
Where those efforts failed, the strict letter of the law provided few other options for resolving the matter.
Councilor Jason Bolen asked how many of these cases the Lebanon police handle each year. Stevenson said there perhaps six cases a year, on average.
The changes will not eliminate euthanasia as an option, when necessary.
“There are those cases, too, where we have those dogs that, unfortunately, need to be euthanized to prevent liability to the city,” Stevenson said.
But many cases are more complex and involve dogs in unusual situations or who acted out of character.
“I wish I could find some other alternative rather than to euthanize a dog who was being a dog and just needs to be under some more guidance,” Stevenson said.
Councilor Karin Stauder supported the ordinance and as a retired police officer said she has been involved in cases exactly like those described by the chief.
“I think this is a really great addition to the city ordinance,” Stauder said.
In other actions on Wednesday, the council:
• Amended its floodplain ordinance within the development code to bring it in compliance with revised federal requirements. The city has to make these changes in order for homeowners in these areas to be eligible for flood insurance, said Community Development Director Kelly Hart.
• Revised its public notification requirements within the development code. The city will no longer provide notice through the newspaper of pending quasi-judicial hearings of the planning department or city council. Hart said those who live near the properties involved in these hearings will continue to be notified.
The council’s next session will be held at noon Wednesday, Jan. 22 at the Santiam Travel Station to discuss the recruitment of a new city manager.
Bolen, the council president, led the Jan. 8 meeting in the absence of Mayor Paul Aziz, who is recovering from spinal surgery.