Is Eugene, Oregon's Downtown Dog Ban, a Stealth Ban on Homeless?

The Eugene City Council enacted a 'trial dog ban' in downtown to protect public safety after complaints of aggressive dogs.
March 13, 2017, 9am PDT | jwilliams | @jwillia22
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Susanne Nilsson

Christian Hill of The Register Guard reports that the Eugene City Council has approved a ban on dogs in parts of downtown as part of a trial run expected to last through November 1. The dog ban ordinance was approved on a 6-2 vote, with the dissenting votes coming from councilors who argued that the ban was a way to exclude many of the homeless who owned dogs from downtown. In February, a consultant hired by the city to work on improving public spaces declared that the homeless problem in Eugene was at a crisis level.

Councilor Chris Pryor said he’s heard of people and other animals attacked by dogs downtown. He noted that the ordinance is modeled after a successful dog ban in effect for the East 13th Ave­nue commercial strip next to the University of Oregon.

“I’m not using dogs as a way to get rid of people I don’t like downtown,” he said. “That’s not my goal here.”

But the two dissenting councilors argued that was precisely the goal.

“It does exclude homeless people because they have nowhere to leave their dog,” [Councilor Emily Semple] said. “They can’t abandon it; it’s companionship, protection and warmth.”

Hill reports that violators of the ban will be fined $250, although changes were made to the ordinance to allow dogs in front of a homeless services facility that provides free meals. The ordinance also has exemptions for service dogs, police dogs and dogs that belong to residents of downtown.

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Published on Thursday, March 9, 2017 in The Register-Guard
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