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April 17, 2021

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Camas puts dogs on shorter leash

Police can revoke license after three violations in a year

By , Columbian county government and small cities reporter
Published:
6 Photos
Indiana Bones looks out of his kennel at the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society in Washougal.
Indiana Bones looks out of his kennel at the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society in Washougal. (Joshua Hart/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Camas dog owners who flout the city’s code will, following a push from a resident, risk having their dog licenses revoked.

The Camas City Council on Monday unanimously passed an ordinance that adds a section to the municipal code chapter on dogs. The section allows the police chief to revoke a license if an owner accrues three or more violations of the chapter within a year or “willfully refuses to comply with this chapter or any law governing the protection and keeping of animals.”

The city administers licenses for the life of the dog. Once licenses are revoked, owners are legally required to immediately move the animal outside of city limits. Owners may appeal any revocation through Camas Municipal Court.

The effort to add the section to the code began in 2019, when northwest Camas resident Doug Long reached out to Councilmember Greg Anderson. Long also told his story during a city council workshop in January.

Long said that in 2018 and 2019 a neighbor allowed two pit bulls to freely roam the neighborhood more than a dozen times, which he and neighbors witnessed in person or caught on home security cameras.

On one occasion, the dogs killed Long’s chicken and bit a small dog. Another time, one of the dogs charged at him late at night, requiring Long to yell, raise his hand and pretend to lunge at him before the dog ran away.

“They harassed numerous neighbors, but it was especially me that they tended to come down to,” Long said. “This dog was getting more and more aggressive.”

In Camas, owners of loose dogs are subject to civil, rather than criminal, penalties. But barring serious injury to another dog or person, authorities were largely powerless to do much more.

Long would call the police, who would then impound the dogs. But each time, the owner would pay the fine before allowing the dogs to roam freely again.

“The penalty wasn’t going to change his behavior at all,” Camas Police Chief Mitch Lackey said. “With the power to revoke a dog license, that situation would’ve been able to have been handled, maybe, a little bit more efficiently.”

Long then began working with the city.

“He was very easy to work with, but determined that the current state wasn’t good enough,” Anderson said.

Lackey found that another city, Walla Walla, has a similar section in its code, leading him to propose it in Camas. The police chief added that Walla Walla has only enforced the revocation on a couple of occasions in the past decade and that fines typically compel dog owners to avoid additional run-ins with the law.

“We want to make sure we have a tool in the toolbox to prevent (serious injuries),” Lackey said. “I don’t think it will be used often, but this situation we experienced in 2018 and 2019 showed us that we need something like this.”

Columbian county government and small cities reporter
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