On Friday morning, February 11, 2005 as most people driving to work were entertaining pleasant thoughts about the upcoming weekend, and citizens gathered at the steps of the Grants Pass Courthouse to protest an issue of genuine concern to most people, the final drama of a nine day battle was quietly reaching its climax in the boardroom of the Josephine County Board of Commissioners Office. The fate of two dogs known as 16974 in kennel run 13 impounded at Josephine County Animal Control would ultimately be determined by Jim Riddle, Chair; Dwight Ellis, Vice Chair; and Jim Raffenburg, Commissioner.
It all began the previous week when Jj Jones, a Grants Pass resident, went to Animal Control in Merlin to report an aggressive dog that had threatened her when she was riding a bicycle. While there, she inquired about two Labrador Retrievers that had been impounded for chasing a goat. After being informed that it didn’t look like anyone was going to claim them and that the dogs would be euthanized if the owner didn’t come forward, she volunteered her expertise as a dog handler to rescue the dogs, rehabilitate them, and place them with responsible owners ensuring that they would no longer be a hazard to livestock and the community.
“I never expected that Animal Control Officers Donnelly and Powell would reject my offer of help with such blatant rudeness and indifference,” said Ms. Jones. “I felt that their minds were made up that these two dogs were evil and needed to be destroyed no matter what.” Ms. Jones went on to explain that she researched Oregon State Statutes with respect to dogs chasing livestock and could find no precedent that dogs absolutely must be destroyed, especially when they did not actually bite or harm the livestock in question. In fact, she did find that the option of rescue that she proposed was, indeed, clearly written into the code.
“I tried to reason with the officers and brought them copies of the ordinances, but with each effort I made, the wall between us seemed to grow,” said Ms. Jones of her experience. The point of contention appeared to be whether or not a citizen could act on behalf of the dogs if they were abandoned by the owner. “Again,” said Ms. Jones, “I could find nothing in the statute that indicated that only an owner can act on behalf of an animal by filing a Writ of Review.”
Ms. Jones desperately sought the assistance of local Labrador Retriever breeders, rescue organizations nationwide, and even Jackson County Animal Control in her efforts to gain support for the dogs. Ms. Jones commented, “After receiving such positive responses from these sources, I knew there had to be a chance to save these dogs, but I didn’t know how to accomplish it.”
The answer came during a meeting with Josephine County Animal Control Supervisor, George Witherington, which after a frustrating two day delay, finally took place Thursday morning, February 10, merely hours before the dogs were to be euthanized. It was Supervisor Witherington who pointed the way to the Board of Commissioners.
“My husband, Jim Russell, and I are not politically minded people,” said Ms. Jones. “We try to keep abreast of the issues and vote responsibly, but like many folks, mainly we just concentrate on living our lives. So, the thought of preparing and delivering a plea to the Josephine County Board of Commissions seemed an overwhelming task.”
On Friday, February 11, 2005, less than 8 hours from the scheduled euthanasia, the Commissioners held a special conference with the Russells to hear their arguments in favor of rescuing the dogs known as 16974 in kennel run 13.
“We were really nervous and the Commissioners hit us with some very stringent questions. They were tough and we knew that the fate of the dogs not only rested in our correct interpretation of the ordinances, but perhaps even more so on convincing the Commissioners of our abilities to protect the community from ever having to be threatened by these dogs again,” said Ms. Jones. Mr. Russell added, “My wife and I have lost livestock to dogs and we realize the tremendous economic impact it places on an agricultural community when irresponsible dog owners allow their pets to run loose and attack the livelihood of others. Therefore, I was impressed with the Commissioners’ genuine concern about the safety of the community, as well as their compassion for these dogs.”
The meeting adjourned with Jim Riddle, Chair; Dwight Ellis, Vice Chair; and Jim Raffenburg, Commissioner shaking the Russell’s hands and promising to call them later that day with their decision.
“By the time we drove home, the Commissioners had left their answer, as to the fate of the dogs known as 16974 in kennel run 13, on our answering machine,” said the Russells. “We were almost afraid to play the message, but happily it was in favor of sparing the dogs’ lives,” they continued.
Now the dogs known as 16974 are called Riffle and Jackson and the behavior modification process to turn them into good dog citizens has begun, thanks to the Josephine County Board of Commissioners who set aside time, to deliberate on the fate of two abandoned dogs having no voice of their own.
(Postscript: Riffle and Jackson were fortunate to have someone give them a voice. You can help other dogs and cats that have no voice. If you are unable to adopt a pet, you can volunteer your time at a local shelter. And finally, if this touched you in any way, please donate any amount in the name of “The Dogs Known as 16974 in Kennel Run 13.” Send a copy of this article with your check to your local shelter, or animal support group. Come on folks, just write a check for even $1.00 and send it. Animals with no voice will appreciate it.)
Editors Note: The US~Observer commends the Josephine County Commissioners for properly representing the public in this matter. Please read Ms. Jones letter to the Editor in this edition for an update regarding Jackson and Riffle, “the dogs known as 16974 in kennel run 13.”