City council adopts leash law

Published on Thu, Dec 13, 2001 by Meg Olson

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City council adopts leash law

By Meg Olson

A leash law for Blaine scampered through city council this week despite some council concern that the current law, which allows dogs off-leash if their owners have them in voice control, was working fine.

“This issue has come up four or five times since I’ve been on council and I’m not unhappy with the way it is,’ said Marsha Hawkins at the December 10 city council meeting. “There are people who tell me they appreciate that they can walk their dogs off leash.”

The majority of council members disagreed. “There have been some very frightening instances,” said Bonnie Onyon. “Most municipalities have leash laws. I think we need one but not one that’s aggressively enforced. It should be complaint driven, mostly educational People could still walk their dogs off-leash but it’s somewhat a risk.”

A leash law for Blaine has been before council four times since 1997, most recently last year, when former city attorney Matt Elich voiced concern that the voice-control provision wasn’t legally enforceable. “We can’t prove or disprove whether a dog is under voice-control,” police chief Bill Elfo explained. It was back on the agenda after local resident Jim Zell again raised concern that, unless a dog is on a leash, there is no guarantee the owner can control it. “Consider to err on the side of life rather than on the side of freedom,” he said at the November 26 city council meeting.

After a work session Monday, council considered an ordinance that would make it mandatory for dogs to be on a leash everywhere in Blaine except Lincoln Park, which was established as an off-leash area.
Mayor Dieter Schugt and Frank Bresnan Jr. both voted against a leash law last year but said they had changed their minds. In Bresnan’s case, a neighbor’s pet swayed his opinion. “He’s in my yard every day,” he said. “Maybe he’s under voice control. I know he’s not on a leash.”

Public works director Grant Stewart said the new ordinance would address his concerns about dog feces in Blaine Marine Park, exacerbating pollution problems in Drayton Harbor. “It’s my concern that dogs that run free are out of range for feces cleanup,” he said. He added there was concern from birdwatchers at the park that loose dogs disturbed migratory waterfowl.

John Liebert said he was concerned that very few complaints were driving the change, while most residents were happy with the law as it stood. “Do we really have verification this is a problem in our community?” he asked. Elfo said there were few formal complaints but he heard of problems with off-leash dogs several times a month.

Following a motion by Ken Ely to waive the second reading and adopt the newly-introduced ordinance, several members of the audience asked if there would be chance for public input and were told the time was now.

Ken Trupp said that, since 1997, the city only had record of five formal complaints about off-leash dogs. “Do we have a problem with off-leash dogs in Marine Park?” he asked. “I think not.” He said he approved of leashes being required in the rest of Blaine but Marine Park was more comfortable and safer, especially for women, than Lincoln Park.

Council adopted the ordinance with five in favor, Hawkins opposed and Liebert abstaining.

In other business, council approved a $25,000 addition to the contract with engineering firm Reichhardt and Ebe for a final design for the reconstruction of Sixth Street between H and D streets so the project can, pending grant funding for construction, get rolling next summer.

In her November financial report, city finance director Meredith Riley reported September sales tax figures were in, showing less of an impact from September 11 than feared. “We’re running about nine percent below the same period in 2000,” she said. “It’s not as bad as I thought but we’ll see in December,” when sales tax figures for October are in...

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