After months of review, the Bingen City Council is expected to hold a public hearing soon on final revisions to its dog/animal control ordinance.
According to Mayor Brian Prigel, the council began a process of strengthening its ordinances related to animals in the aftermath of an unprovoked pit bull attack on four Bingen residents -- all members of the Sanchez family -- in July 2008. In this incident, the dog charged and viciously attacked Rosario Rincon, who was waiting outside her own home for a ride to work. The dog then attacked other family members who came to her aid. In the wake of the attack, four people -- Rosario Rincon, Graciela Sanchez, Mayra Sanchez, and Silviano Sanchez -- had to be trasnported for emergency treatment at Skyline Hospital.
In the wake of that terrible incident, Bingen's council members have been working to toughen standards against dangerous dogs in an effort to reduce the likelihood of another serious dog attack.
After discussion of amendments to the city's dog ordinance on Feb. 17, Mayor Prigel believes the end is in sight.
"I think this will be the last time it's on the agenda for discussion," Prigel said. "We expect to have a draft ordinance for a public hearing at the first meeting in March."
Prigel said the biggest change in the ordinance was a new section designed to make sure no overly aggressive dogs are kept in Bingen.
"There is a significant change in how we'll deal with aggressive dogs, and the signs to recognize aggressive dogs," Prigel explained.
Another proposed change is a ban on any dog declared and determined to be a dangerous dog, regardless of breed.
"If it's declared dangerous, it's banned from the city," Prigel said.
Prigel explained that, if the ordinance being worked on is approved by the council, the "dangerous dog" determination would be made by the city's animal control officer, working in consultation with the police.
"If an incident causes us to declare a dog dangerous, the owner can appeal. But if the declaration is upheld, the dog can't be housed within the city," Prigel explained.
Prigel added that if a dog owner did not comply with the city's determination about a dangerous dog, the dog could be confiscated.
Fines for non-compliance with the city's animal control ordinances are also likely to be boosted.
"That's our intent -- to ratchet up pressure on dogs that exhibit aggressive behavior," Prigel commented. "Mainly, we're barring dangerous dogs; and potentially dangerous dogs will have more restrictions on them and bigger fines."
Prigel said he hoped the council would come up with a "final rough version" at the Feb. 17 meeting.
"At that point, the council would give us the go-ahead to schedule a public hearing," Prigel said.
The hearing on the dog ordinance is tentatively scheduled for March 3, with the meeting starting at 7 p.m. in the council chambers of Bingen City Hall.
In a related item, there will be a fundraiser for the family that was attacked by the pit bull in Bingen last July. The event will be held at the White Salmon Elks Lodge, 124 Church Ave NE, on Saturday, Feb. 21, from 8 p.m.-1 a.m. proceeds from the event will help cover medical and other expenses the Sanchez family has had to deal with since last year's dog attack. For more details on this event, call the Elks Lodge, 493-1868.