Downtown Eugene Dog Ban Expires Nov. 1

This chilly November, the dog days of Eugene will return.

Dogs will be allowed in downtown Eugene when a ban on dogs expires on Nov. 1, almost seven months after it went into effect on April 10, 2017.

The Register-Guard reported that members of the Eugene City Council intended for the ban to be temporary, having not voted to extend the ban before the start of their annual summer recess. The ban is part of a broader effort by the city to make downtown more welcoming.

Adriann Bechtle is a first-year architecture student at the University of Oregon, and she has lived in Eugene for the last two years. She doesn’t live in the affected area but can’t walk her dog, Toasty — a bichon-poodle mix — downtown. “She likes going all around town,” she said. “She’s always very happy to see people; everyone’s happy to see her, and I felt sad that she was excluded from that space.”

The dog ban prohibits dogs specifically in Eugene’s downtown area, defined by the Eugene City Code as the area roughly bordering Lincoln Street, West Eighth Avenue, Pearl Street and East 11th Avenue; however, there are some exceptions to the ban.

The ordinance exempts dogs of residents who live and work in the downtown area, police dogs, service dogs as well as dogs inside motorized vehicles. Dogs must be licensed by the city to qualify for the exemption.

Dogs will be allowed in Eugene’s downtown area. (Courtesy of City of Eugene)

Eugene council members in favor of the ban argue that it will help to improve public safety.

“Keeping dogs from the street or ones that lord around the street corners makes it safer, and I think cleaner,” stated a UO student who wished to remain anonymous.

However, critics have been vocal in their opposition to the ordinance. At a public hearing concerning the ordinance, about two dozen people were in opposition to the ban, with some calling it “morally wrong,” according to the Register-Guard

“I don’t understand how they think it would be effective or what they’re really trying to accomplish,” says Josie Bellizzi, a first-year psychology student at UO who’s lived in Eugene her entire life.

The dog ban was first brought up during a Eugene City Council work session in November 2016. At an earlier work session, council members discussed a dog attack on another dog owned by a library employee in downtown Eugene. The attack occurred in the summer of 2016 and resulted in injuries to the employee and the death of the employee’s dog.

Council members used this and other stories of violent dog attacks as examples of how Eugene could improve safety downtown with a restriction on dogs.

The ban was one of the four proposals suggested to improve the safety and public perception of downtown Eugene. Proposals to ban smoking in specific downtown areas, temporarily close the Park Blocks shelters — where many homeless people and others gather — and install security cameras at Park Blocks were also under consideration, according to the Register-Guard. The ban against smoking downtown and the ordinance for security cameras were both scrapped.

On Oct. 18, city council members voted to continue the discussion on temporarily closing the Park Blocks shelters as well as to continue the debate and scheduling a public hearing on expanding smoke-free areas downtown. According to the Register-Guard, councilors voted 5-3 on both, with George Brown, Claire Syrett and Betty Taylor voting no on the discussion for closing shelters at Park Blocks. Brown, Mike Clark and Taylor voted no on the debate for smoke-free areas.

The council then voted 6-2 to approve the dog ban.

The council based the ban on a similar ordinance adopted in Eugene in the late 1990s that is still in effect today. The city approved an ordinance prohibiting dogs in a commercial strip near the University of Oregon and Alder Street, and its success motivated the council to pass this ban.

During Bechtel’s time here, she hasn’t seen many areas of Eugene where she feels unsafe. “I definitely feel safe walking my dog in downtown,” she said.

Critics of the ban say that it targets and criminalizes the homeless.

In another OregonLive article, Councilor Betty Taylor, who voted against the ordinance, stated, “We don’t ban a whole class [of people] just because something bad happens.”

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Ryan Nguyen

Ryan Nguyen

Ryan ("Nayr" ) Nguyen is the podcast editor. He's a sophomore who is studying journalism and computer information technology, aka making pretty websites.

Big fan of fans, $300 textbooks and the Oxford comma.

Contact me with tips, weird story ideas or questions at [email protected]