The Longview City Council Thursday agreed to create a leash law and pay more for animal control services as long as the Cowlitz County Humane Society agrees to allow a third party to monitor its practices.
Several members of the public expressed concern about the Humane Society, which local veterinarian Aaron Gilbertsen recently blasted for neglecting animals, stray dogs in particular.
Anne Langer, who like Gilbertsen was a contract veterinarian with the agency, told the Council the shelter has problems because its board is dismissive of suggestions or concerns.
“The board, I think, has no idea what standard practices of running a shelter are,” she said. “If you (the city) are going to continue with the Humane Society, I would make it contingent on a change in leadership.”
Humane Society board President Cindy Nordstrom thanked the Council for the opportunity to continue its partnership and contract with the city.
“Like all organizations, we go up and down,” she said. “We welcome any third party, such as county commissioners and city councilmen, to come and review our facilities. … Our doors are open. Please come.”
In order to address public concerns, City Attorney Jim McNamara recommended adding requirements in the city’s contract with the Humane Society that an independent third party conduct an onsite evaluation and then recruit an expert to help the agency carry out the suggestions. McNamara named Autumn White, executive director of the Benton-Franklin Humane Society, as an expert who reviews other humane societies.
The Council unanimously approved increasing funding for the Humane Society in 2018 from $196,000 to $260,000, with the added requirements. Councilman Steve Moon was absent.
“From hearing the concerns expressed, it doesn’t make any sense to deny or delay the funding,” Councilman Mike Wallin said. “It seems to me it would make things more difficult if we weren’t going to extend the contract. … This is a good compromise, and we can make some positive changes this year.”
The Council expects to continue negotiating with the Humane Society throughout 2018 for a long-term contract.
In other business, the Council unanimously voted to have staff develop a leash law in public parks, with the exception of Gerhart Gardens Dog Park.
The measure, introduced by Councilwoman MaryAlice Wallis, includes a $200 fine for violations.
“I’m bringing it back ... for our citizens who are pet owners to get a chance to share their responsibility in our parks for the safety of our children,” Wallis said. “This is just a slight change to an ordinance that’s already there, which says that dogs that are female that are in heat need to be leashed.”
Councilman Scott Vydra proposed an amendment to reduce the leash length from 15 feet to 6 feet. The council unanimously accepted the amendment.
“I’ve been around the lake 5,000 times or more running, and one of the worst things I have seen is folks with long leashes straddling the trail,” citizen and one-time council candidate George Brajcich said. “Most progressive cities have leash laws. You need to expand that past city parks into the City of Longview.”
Councilman Wallin supported the measure but said he would introduce amendments when it comes back to the council, which might include dog-friendly and dog-free zones.
“It’s been expressed to me concern about the leash law and whether it’s enforceable,” he said. “I heard a number of different ideas I think would merit some discussion.”
Councilman Chet Makinster echoed his concerns about enforcing the law, but voted for the measure anyway.
“As many of you know, I don’t like laws you can’t enforce, and this is a law you can’t enforce. But I think it will be helpful,” he said. “I think we need to give it a try and see what happens. And look at amendments down the road.”
The council unanimously supported the motion. City staff will draft an ordinance and bring it back to council at a future meeting.