Pit bull named Bo may spur change in B.G. law

Neighbors say he’s mistreated, a claim his owner denies

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian health reporter

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Battle Ground resident Anita Gayheart’s five-minute plea to the city council started simply enough.

“I’m here to talk about Bo,” she said matter-of-factly.

Gayheart went on to tell the seven members of the Battle Ground City Council about the 5-year-old pit bull.

Gayheart had passed by Bo nearly every day for two years. The dark-colored pit bull would run around the fenced backyard and come to the edge of the fence wagging his tail whenever Gayheart walked past, she said.

Then one day in late spring, Bo was tied up near the back of the house, she said. Gayheart claims ever since then, she and other neighbors have seen Bo tethered for days on end, sometimes without fresh water or food. She says he’s never given room to exercise. Bo’s owner denies the claims.

“It just got to be so awful to see this,” Gayheart said.

So Gayheart researched the city’s animal cruelty laws and contacted the Battle Ground Police Department. A code enforcement officer checked on Bo, and called Gayheart to tell her there was nothing he could do. Bo had food, water and shelter and the length of the tether met city code requirements.

After hearing the unsettling news, Gayheart made her plea to the city council at its August meeting. Gayheart urged the city council to adopt Clark County’s animal cruelty code, and at the following meeting, Councilwoman Lisa Walters asked city staff to research the issue. On Monday night, the council directed the city staff to draft an ordinance to revise the code.

The city’s current code requires tethers to be at least three times the length of the animal, measured from the tip of the nose to the base of its tail.The city’s code also prohibits tethering animals in ways that prevent them from reaching food and water and restrict freedom of movement necessary when tethered for extended periods of time.

The proposed ordinance would replace that portion of the city code with the tougher county code.

Clark County’s code prohibits dogs from being tied up for more than 10 hours in a 24-hour period or during any inclement weather, like snow or freezing rain. The code also calls for tethers to be at least five times the length of the dog or a minimum of 10 feet for smaller animals. The tether must also allow the dog to reach shelter, shade, food and water.

On a recent sunny afternoon, Bo was tethered near his doghouse by a white cord. He lay on the concrete patio in the shade provided by the doghouse, and at times, wandered into the grass as far as his tether would allow. His blue water dish sat on the patio. Bo strained to reach the dish before using his paw to pull the bowl closer and take a drink.

Bo’s story is what prompted Walters to push for the changes. She and others have dubbed the revisions “Bo’s Law.”

“It’s hopefully to protect all animals who are feeling this,” she said. “But it is for Bo. It’s Bo’s Law.”

But Bo’s owner, who did not want to disclose her name, said the claims of mistreatment are false.

Bo has two doghouses that provide shelter, he’s given water and his food bowl is inside his doghouse so he can’t tip it over, she said. The only reason Bo is tied up, his owner said, is because beginning about six months ago, somebody started opening the gate while she was gone, allowing the dog to escape.

“I had to tie him up for his own protection, and so I wouldn’t have to keep paying to get him back,” Bo’s owner said.

At one point, Bo’s owner secured the gate with zip ties, but the gate was still opened. She also claims someone has removed Bo’s water and food dishes in the past, and then called animal control to report the dog’s conditions. Someone has also called a pit bull rescue organization in Portland and asked them to intervene, she said.

Bo is tied up on a 20-foot cable, but is often taken off the tether, his owner said. She said the dog comes inside to play with her kids and she takes the dog to Lucia Falls Park and her father’s house to get exercise.

She said she doesn’t know why her neighbors claim she doesn’t take proper care of Bo, her pet for five years.

“I’m really not sure what I did to these people to make them target me like this,” she said.

The city council will hold a public hearing on the ordinance revising the city’s animal cruelty code at its meeting Nov. 15. After the hearing, the council can vote to adopt the changes.

Marissa Harshman: 360-735-4546 or marissa.harshman@columbian.com.