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Lake County has Gone to the Dogs

Lake County must have the highest rate of dog ownership per-capita in the state, if not the country. We are dog crazy. It seems everybody has a dog, or multiple dogs. Pets are wonderful, like another member of the family, loyal to a fault and ever vigilant at keeping the evil postal carrier at bay.

Yet, just like guns, dogs can also be a lethal weapon, deadly if not handled properly by responsible owners. About 4.5 million people fall victim to dog bites every year in the United States according to facts released during National Dog Bite Prevention Week, May 18-24. Compare that to roughly 7,500 people being hospitalized each year from gunshot wounds.

It is estimated there are 70 million dogs in the United States, while there are over 270 million firearms. That means for every gun there is a 0.00003 percent chance of one individual firearm resulting in an injury, but a 0.06 percent chance that one dog will bite a person.

Oregon ranks thirteenth in dog attacks among states, with 91 reports last year resulting in millions of dollars in insurance claims, a sharp increase from the 77 incidents in 2012. The U.S. Postal Service reported 5,581 attacks on employees, and over $483 million was paid in lawsuits and hospital bills resulting from dog attack in 2013.

According to the American Humane Association, children, the elderly, and postal carriers are the most common victims. Among attacks on children, 66 percent are to the head or neck.

This is a looming tragedy waiting to happen for Lake County, as barely a day passes where I don’t see at least one loose or stray dog roaming the streets unsupervised. When I bring up loose dogs to other residents I’ve been told it’s no big deal, just a part of rural life. After all, we love our pets, and certainly most dogs are friendly, seeking out only belly rubs and a snack or anxiously waiting for someone to throw that ball.

Consider though that on May 5 a dog bite was reported to Lakeview Police, and on three separate occasions in the past month alone concerns over loose dogs have been mentioned at town council meetings, including the report of a beloved family cat killed by a dog.

I would argue it is a big deal. It is something that needs to be addressed, necessitating perhaps a change in policy, and definitely a change in attitude.

What incident must take place before dog owners get past their cavalier approach about responsibly keeping their pets locked up just like any other potential deadly weapon? What if a dog attacks a child playing on school grounds, will there be as much of an outcry over loose dogs being a danger to children as there was with medicinal marijuana dispensaries?

A full-time animal control position was eliminated years ago from Lakeview’s budget. I was told that without county assistance there is no feasible way to fund employing a dogcatcher. The current 2014-15 Lakeview town budget sets aside a mere $500 for animal control. This means that, barring a major incident, there is no threat of repercussion from irresponsible dog ownership.

City and state ordinance requires all dogs be safely confined on owner’s property or leashes at all times. It is the law, even if your pet is the friendliest, most tummy-rub worthy happy little scamp around. Your pet may love you, but will it have the same attitude for the postal carrier or child down the street if allowed to roam free?

It is time for a proactive approach to avoid a potential tragedy, the county and towns should get serious about animal control, and pet owners need to be more responsible. Otherwise be prepared to fork out part of that $483 million annually resulting from dogs gone wild.

—Kurt Liedtke

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