The recent pit bull attack in Bingen appears to be bringing a strong impetus for changes in the way dangerous dogs will be dealt with in White Salmon.
On July 18, four adults from the same family were attacked on their own property by a neighbor's pit bull in Bingen. All four had to be taken to the hospital for treatment of serious bite wounds.
The anger and anxiety from that shocking incident has spilled over to White Salmon. Citizens and council members alike are demanding changes to help try to prevent such an incident from occurring again.
To address the problem of dangerous dogs, the city of Bingen and the city of White Salmon are planning separate public hearings soon to address to problem.
Bingen will ask for public input regarding possible amendments to its dog ordinances on Sept. 2, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Bingen Fire Station meeting room.
Bingen is considering banning certain dog breeds; identifying dogs that are "potentially dangerous"; and requiring additional restrictions for these dogs. Restrictions could include: special registration; requiring the dog to be restrained in a kennel enclosure; requiring the dog to be muzzled when it leaves the property; requiring signs to be posted on the property noting that a "vicious" or "aggressive" or "potentially dangerous" dog resides on the property; and making the dog owners supply additional insurance to keep certain dogs.
White Salmon will hold its public hearing on Wednesday, Sept. 3, at the beginning of its regular City Council meeting. The meeting will start at 6 p.m. in the White Salmon Fire Station.
White Salmon City Council member Bob Landgren, who owns Vanguard Nursery, said the attack had a direct and personal impact on him.
"Two of those injured in the Bingen attack were my employees," Landgren said at last week's council meeting. "I've had several citizens call me, and I think we need to schedule a public hearing on this situation and find out where we stand. It's an important issue for our city."
Landgren said he supported the idea of contracting with the same animal control officer that now serves the city of Bingen. That officer, who patrols Bingen and enforces ordinances related to animals, works for the Goldendale Police Department.
"We need to see where we're at on enforcement. We may want to look at a contract with the Goldendale Police Department," Landgren explained. "With the county and Bingen using him, if we went in on it with them, it might make it less expensive for all of us."
Bingen-White Salmon Police Chief Bruce Brending said he backed the idea of having a part-time animal control officer available.
"If we can find a way to make it work with a certified animal control officer, great," Brending said. "Our cars are not equipped to transport dogs."
Brending pointed out that since Bingen has brought on its animal control officer, compliance with license requirements and rules for keeping dogs on leashes has gone up.
"It has been very successful for Bingen," Brending said. Brending added that he expected all the entities involved would want to include White Salmon in the coverage.
"Unless things have changed, the original game plan was to offer services for White Salmon, Bingen, and the county," he said.
Brending said he believes White Salmon needs to update its ordinances about dogs, including revamping how much is charged for violations.
"Our ordinance on dogs is outdated, and has been for a long time. The fines don't even cover the court costs, and it needs to be revamped," he said.
White Salmon resident Shelley Baxter is one of the citizens who has been pushing the White Salmon council to take firmer action. At the council's Aug. 20 meeting, Baxter told the council members that she had been attacked by a pit bull and had her ear torn off by the animal.
"I feel a responsibility to weigh in with my feelings that we need protections for all of us," Baxter said. "At a minimum, you need to come up with some way of requiring insurance for certain breeds, for rottweiler or pit bull mixes. People who say it's not fair for those who can't afford insurance -- what about those who lose their livelihoods to these dogs? There are a lot of things that can be done, and it's time, frankly."
Council member Brad Roberts said he was interested in looking at a ban on certain aggressive dog breeds.
"Can there be breed-specific bans? I feel pit bills don't have a place in our communities," Roberts said.
"There are a lot of options, but a breed specific ban is problematic for enforcement," Brending said. "But there can at least be increased license fees and insurance costs for certain breeds."