All of Lake County has a major issue that is both a health hazard and a blight on ongoing efforts to enhance rural tourism – a culture of complacency when it comes to proper care of pets.

It seems a stark contrast for an area so rich with agricultural opportunities and know-how to see so many people brazenly flaunting the law by failing to properly secure their animals; yet on a daily basis it is nearly impossible to ignore the number of dogs roaming free on streets from New Pine Creek to Christmas Valley. Deer making their home inside town boundaries is one thing, but there is no excuse for not obeying Lake County and Town of Lakeview ordinances requiring dogs to either be on a leash, secured indoors, or in a fenced area at all times.

The reason for so many dogs on the loose in violation of the law is simple: there is a perception of no repercussions since there is no funding available for ordinance enforcement. Despite the lack of an ordinance officer, and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office stretched and shorthanded through pulling double duty acting as Lakeview Town Police as well, residents have become better at respecting ordinances such as air quality restrictions. When it comes to animals, however, anything goes.

Contrary to popular belief there are serious repercussions. Roaming dogs present a health hazard in potential attack, especially on children and the elderly. Just this past week a UPS driver in Christmas Valley was attacked by dogs so severely that they had to be airlifted to St. Charles Hospital in Bend.

With the lack of a dog catcher, and deputies stretched by other duties to the point where animal control becomes secondary, some citizens have taken the matter into their own hands. One animal shelter operated by a private citizen, known as the “Animal House,” acts as the area’s pseudo-dog catcher, but stretches this individual’s time and abilities to their limits by the sheer volume of dogs allowed to roam free.

At last week’s Lakeview Town Council meeting, one council member passionately addressed the matter, pleading for residents to take personal responsibility. They added a reasonable statement that I have heard come from many others fed up with the situation: habitual offenders who flaunt dog ordinances failing to keep their pets properly secured, don’t deserve to have them. If it comes down to those animals being taken away and kept at out-of-area shelters, so be it.

When I first joined the Examiner in 2014, the very first editorial I wrote was about the top-issue I saw plaguing Lakeview – loose dogs freely roaming streets. Since temporarily returning for the past several months it has been gratifying to see so many positive changes happening in the region, yet what in my mind was one of the biggest issues remains completely unresolved and unchanged.

There are ongoing efforts to possibly find funding to address animal enforcement laws, and to modify ordinances with stricter repercussions. However, the responsibility for changing this unfortunate aspect of Lake County life begins with every resident, taking personal account of their own actions if they own animals, and reporting those who repeatedly ignore the law. The positive change to a better, safer Lake County starts with you.

— Kurt Liedtke

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