EUGENE, Ore. -- From now until at least November, dogs are no longer welcome in the heart of downtown Eugene.
The city's 6-month trial dog ban started Monday. It's a $100 base citation, a judge can up it to $250 in court.
For the first few weeks, violators will get by with a warning and education. This is the city of Eugene admitting their downtown has a safety problem after several dog attacks and a woman was bitten.
"We had a library employee who was walking her dog and it was attacked and killed by another dog, and she was injured as well," said Kelly Putnam of the Eugene Police Department.
Twelve blocks of the downtown core is now a no-dog zone for the next six months in this pilot project. Exempt from the ban are police K-9s, dogs whose owners live or work in the area and trained service dogs.
Daniel Leppane has a 4-year-old Chihuahua named Chili Pepper, who he says is a service dog, trained to detect seizures before they happen. Leppane carries Chili in his backpack and says while he has seen plenty of aggressive dogs in downtown Eugene, that shouldn't mean everyone's dogs are banned.
"It's really ridiculous when you can have dogs everywhere else in town. I think it's just a matter of people controlling their dogs and having licenses for their dogs and not make it a whole huge deal for everyone who has dogs," he said.
Signs are being made up and installed soon to warn people, but it's so new, we saw plenty of dogs in the zone. We watched as Eugene Police walked around talking to dog owners. "We're just contacting you to make sure everyone is aware of the new dog ordinance," officers told one woman with her dog on a leash. "Oh yeah, I've heard about it," she said.
Every downtown has it's issues. Like Portland, homelessness is one of them in Eugene. Paul Quigley has lived here for only nine months, but already hopes the ban will clean up more than just dogs.
"I see a lot of people congregating, gathering, not being very friendly, being annoying, abusive, spitting, loud music, shouting at people, there's all kinds of stuff down here and it makes it uncomfortable to want to be downtown," Quigley said. "What I feel is that it's a veiled attempt at getting homeless people to move along. I think there's a big problem here and any efforts to address it is going to be helpful."
Others like Isaiah Boise, who works at the Reality Kitchen food cart downtown, say while there is a large problem with loitering from the homeless, a dog ban is going at it the wrong way. "It seems like we need better job training skills, more services and less policing, maybe a cross between the both," Boise said. "Maybe more community outreach as opposed to just bans and enforcement."
West 13th Street near the University of Oregon campus has been a no-dog zone for 20 years, police say. Putnam says it's so well marked and known, police haven't ticketed people there in years. So the city believes if it worked there, it can work downtown.
This ban expires in November. But the city council could vote to extend it, if they feel it's making things safer.
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