Medford officials, residents consider new laws on dangerous dogs

A dangerous-dog law in Medford might feature a two-pronged approach that would deal both with animals that turn vicious and their irresponsible owners.

At its noon meeting Thursday in City Hall, City Council, which has received about 100 emails and many phone calls on the issue, will give direction to the Police Advisory Committee.

The council plans to ask the committee to devise a stair-step enforcement plan to deal with residents and dogs who are repeat offenders.

The council also wants to devise a law that offers a proactive means to address a dangerous dog.

Last week, councilors learned that 89 cases of dog bites on other animals or humans had been reported in the past three years.

Councilors received graphic photos showing dogs that had been attacked, including in Hawthorne Park.

Councilor Daniel Bunn said the city will likely ask the Police Advisory Committee to hold public hearings and come up with a recommendation on dealing with dangerous dogs.

Bunn said council would like a law that offers a stair-step approach to dealing with the owners of problem dogs. He said he might suggest that a pit bull breeder or owner be added to the committee for the purpose of getting a dog owner's perspective.

The council would also like a recommendation on laws discussed in other communities, such as bans on specific breeds, mandatory sterilization and other measures, such as cages that would completely enclose an animal. So far, a breed-specific ban has been a problematic idea for the council.

Bunn, who owns a labrador, said he thinks most dog owners in Medford are responsible.

"I work with a guy who has pit bulls," he said. "They seem nice, and I don't want to take his dogs away."

However, the council has received complaints from residents whose dogs have been attacked, which prompted the discussion.

"Half of all bites are coming from pit bulls," Bunn said. "That's the reality we're faced with at the council."

Matthews said he expects a lot of people will show up at Thursday's meeting, based on the feedback he's gotten so far.

"We pass a $260 million budget, and we get four emails," he said. "We talk about people's dogs, and we get bombarded with emails and calls."

The city will be looking at how other communities have dealt with dangerous dogs. Some communities have banned pit bulls or dangerous dogs from parks.

Matthews said he personally isn't leaning toward a ban on a particular breed.

"I don't think we should just pinpoint pit bulls," he said. "But we'll see how this unfolds."

He said there will likely be a lot of discussion about what constitutes a dangerous dog, and there will be a lot of discussion about how other communities handle the issue.

"Medford's unique, and we'll find our own way of doing things," he said.

He said spaying and neutering animals is often an effective method of dealing with dangerous dogs.

"They are three times more likely to attack if they're intact," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or Follow him on Twitter at @reporterdm.

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