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Sunday, September 24, 2023
Sept. 24, 2023

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Longview goes to the dogs with new leash law and off-leash parks


LONGVIEW — The Longview City Council had a litter of dog discussions on the agenda Thursday night.

The council unanimously voted to create a leash law for Longview’s dogs to crack down on animals running loose. The council also discussed adding more off-leash dog parks to the city and received an update from the Humane Society of Cowlitz County about local animal control.

The new ordinance requires dogs to be leashed on public property and takes effect in 30 days. Exceptions are allowed for police canines, dog shows and designated off-leash areas.

Longview had enacted a leash law within the city parks in 2018 and was the only city in Cowlitz County without a broader restriction.

Multiple members of the city council said they had bad encounters with loose dogs in Longview. Mayor MaryAlice Wallis said she was nearly mauled by Rottweilers while jogging, Spencer Boudreau said he was attacked as a kid, and Ruth Kendall has mentioned incidents with a neighbor’s dogs that ran loose.

The biggest disagreement among the council members was about how the new law would be enforced. Some councilors said the law would make it easier for someone attacked by an unleashed dog to file a civil or criminal suit against the owner. Kendall compared it to lowering speed limits as a preventative safety measure.

“By virtue of having that rule, you’re going to end up with more cars slowing down, and I think likewise with the leash law,” Kendall said.

The workshop proposed three potential locations for new dog parks: Seventh Avenue, Roy Morse and John Null parks. Parks Director Jen Wills said staffers chose areas near parking lots but away from roads and focused on parks that could benefit from having additional visitors.

It could cost around $20,000 to create a new fenced-off dog park, depending on the size and the number of trees being added, and at least $12,000 in annual maintenance fees.

“I am pro-dog. I am not thrilled about spending more money on fencing and restricting areas that we have,” Councilor Angie Wean said.

Wean and several other councilmembers were interested in converting larger sections of parks to off-leash areas. The lack of fencing made those areas cheaper to run and larger, but Wills said there would be concerns about enforcement. Roy Morse has become a popular unofficial off-leash area for dogs despite the city’s leash law for parks.

“If you change that to an unleashed area, do you now have designations when it’s not unleashed when we have a softball tournaments? Or when we have other people present, it’s only over here?” Wills said.

The council ultimately asked for the Parks Department and the Parks Advisory Board to bring back a new round of proposals in June.