LC decides to enforce Multnomah County’s mandatory leash policy

Illustration by Ada Barbee

Lewis & Clark has decided to enforce the Animal Control Policy outlined by Multnomah

County law that requires animals to be outside, leashed and controlled by their owners, with some exceptions.

In The Bark sent out on Nov. 13, the animal control policy was included as a reminder to the LC community because of “ongoing issues related to pets on campus.” According to the policy, it is intended to “preserve the safety of people and animals on campus, and to protect the college from liability in animal control incidents.”

Chapter 13 of the Multnomah County Code requires policies to keep animals from biting and obstructing college activities. Animals must be leashed at all times, are not allowed to be unattended and their waste must be properly disposed of. It also restricts animals from accessing buildings, including places where food is served, and athletic fields. These policies apply to all animals apart from registered service animals, animals used in research or animals who have gained allowance through a

special permissions process.

Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Robin Holmes- Sullivan finds the enforcement of policy to be a safety issue as well as a legal one.

“We have students, faculty and staff on our campus as well as a multitude of visitors to the campus on any given day and the College has an obligation to do what we can to keep these constituencies safe,” Holmes- Sullivan said via email. “Campus members and visitors to our campus have an obligation to follow our policies and procedures when utilizing our campus and our facilities.”

However, Patrick Varner ’20 feels the choice to enforce the policy goes against the rights of students.

Varner said that he found out about the policy after being approached by Holmes-Sullivan when playing with his golden retriever, Carmen, on campus. He was irritated because of the extent he had gone to confirm with campus before getting his dog.

“Before purchasing a working dog, I confirmed with Director of Campus Safety Donna Henderson that I CAN keep my dog off-leash on campus,” Varner said via email. “I

have confirmed this policy with her as recently as two weeks ago (as of Nov. 11).”

Varner’s issue is not with the regulations themselves, but with inconsistencies of enforcement and the ethical questions this raises for campus policies at large.

Campus Safety Officer Julie Couch noted that Holmes-Sullivan decided to enforce this policy unlike previous Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Anna Gonzalez. Gonzalez frequently brought her own dog, a standard poodle, to campus with her.

Couch recognizes the need to enforce the county’s policy.

“There are students, faculty and staff who are allergic to dogs, or afraid, or they don’t want to be jumped on because they’re wearing work clothes, nice clothes,” Couch said. “It’s Multnomah County law and we follow Multnomah County law.”

Couch also finds the policy important because there are service dogs on campus, and unleashed animals may interfere with the ability of service dogs to perform. Service dogs undergo training to be allowed in public spaces, but still can be distracted, preventing them from fulfilling the needs of their owners.

At the same time, Couch said the policy is difficult to enforce because Campus Safety officers can not be at all parts of campus at once. Also, many professors have brought their dogs to campus for many years, so they may be resistant to the policy enforcement.

Associate Professor and Chair of Rhetoric and Media Studies Bryan Sebok frequently brings his dog to campus, keeping her in his office. Sebok believes these policies should be enforced loosely.

“I try to be sympathetic and empathetic to people’s situations, which I think would benefit everyone if they were to do that more,” Sebok said. “If you’re not a dog person, great, but you should have empathy for people who are, just as we should for them as mutual respect.”

Sebok hopes LC does not continue to strengthen these policies.

“It would be a shame if the college decided to ban animals,” Sebok said. “I get that there are policies, but those policies don’t need to be strictly enforced for the betterment of the community. We can all be responsible we can all look out for each other’s well being, without being draconian.”

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