Citing fearful encounters with dogs running loose in the community, several citizens urged members of the White Salmon City Council to do something about the ongoing problem.
During the May 21 council meeting at the Park Center, residents described their misadventures with aggressive dogs and appealed to the council to finally take action.
Lois Yake, who lives on NE Estes in White Salmon, said she was going out her front door recently to walk her dog, and another dog came running up her front steps to attack her dog.
In the melee, the dog, a pit bull, bit her on her thigh. Yake, a retired Columbia High School teacher, retreated into her house and literally had to brace herself and slam the door on the dog's head to get it to let go.
Leigh Hancock, who lost a pet dog to a violent attack by two pit bulls that came into her yard on Wyers Street in May 2001, told the council that the tragic event was not her only bad experience with dogs in the area.
"This happens a lot," Hancock explained. "People don't walk because they are afraid of dogs running around. There are some real nasty dogs out there, and this is a real serious public health hazard. You need to act on it before a child gets killed."
Mayor Roger Holen said he agreed the issue needed to be addressed.
"I can assure you your concerns are shared by everybody on the City Council and city staff," Holen said. "We hear a lot about it. It comes up every few months, and we stand around trying to figure out how to go about it."
However, Holen went on to list reasons why nothing had been done to date.
"There is no place to impound dogs. We are in contact with Bingen, the county, and Hood River, and we're still waiting to hear back on that," Holen said. "We couldn't figure out how to enforce it [ordinances against loose dogs], because there is no place to impound the dogs. We had preliminary plans for an animal shelter/impoundment area, but by the time you comply with state laws and Health Department regulations, it's a $100,000 building."
Hancock suggested seeking public safety grants to help defray the costs, and pointed out that a tragedy could be coming if there was continued inaction.
"$100,000 is nothing when talking about the life of a child," said Hancock, who came to the meeting with her 2-year-old son, Finn.
Holen responded that $100,000 was probably a low estimate.
"We would also need employees, equipment, and training," Holen explained. "I don't mean to be making excuses, but the barrier to a successful solution is money."
Council member Tim Stone said he didn't believe the issues were as overwhelming as they were being made to appear.
"It is not as bleak as the mayor says it is," Stone said. "We're not going to duck the issue. It will come about. We've been working with the Bingen City Council."
Susan Benedict, also a council member of the City Council, noted that she had read about a proposed "Happy Tails Kennel" in the White Salmon area, and suggested the owners be approached to see if they might be willing and able to help house impounded dogs.
One of those who implored the council to take action soon was White Salmon resident Peggy Durkee-Neuman, and after the meeting, she warned that the community's luck could run out.
"There has been no tragedy yet, but it's just a matter or time," she said. "Dogs are roaming through my yard, and there is an attitude of acceptance. Nobody deals with it. I urge the City Council to look into this. Maybe there are individuals who could shelter the dogs for a fee."
Durkee-Neuman said she was involved in a close call while out with her 6-year-old daughter along Green Street in White Salmon recently. Although she didn't want to go into details, she said the incident involved two large dogs.
"It could have seriously injured my child, and it was very close to the [Whitson] elementary school," she said.
Durkee-Neuman rejected the excuses as to why nothing had been done despite repeated efforts by citizens to get a dog shelter up and running.
"If we pool our resources, there has got to be an affordable way to do it. It can't be beyond our means," she said. "We can't use money as an excuse and end up with some older person or little kid getting hurt -- or worse."
Durkee-Neuman, who has lived in White Salmon for the past four years, added that her experiences with dogs in White Salmon were much worse than she has encountered in other towns.
"I've lived in many different communities, including rural communities, and I've never seen anything like this. It's shocking to me it's allowed to continue," she said.
Durkee-Neuman said she was disappointed with the lack of action from the cities and the county to date.
"I'd like to take at face value that they are doing all they can," she said. "I can't help but feel there must be a solution to this. It's just a matter of time that it's more serious than someone's pet getting killed."
Holen hinted that the city of White Salmon might have to consider a harsh answer to the issue of dogs running loose if a better resolution was not forthcoming.
"In some cities, they shoot dogs on the spot," Holen explained. "If it's running free, it's dead."