A wave of complaints about aggressive dogs in the downtown area of Oregon's third most populous city has prompted Eugene city councilors to ban dogs from the downtown area except those owned by people who live or work there. The Eugene City Council Wednesday voted 6-2 to approve the ban that takes effect in April and will expire in November unless there's another vote to extend it, the AP reports. The ordinance doesn't apply to service dogs for disabled people, police dogs, and dogs inside motor vehicles; it also exempts an area in front of a downtown location that serves hundreds of free lunches four days a week. While ban supporters say it's needed because of a rise in complaints by downtown residents and workers of encounters with aggressive dogs, critics claim the real intent was to displace homeless people and their dogs, the Register-Guard reports.
Councilor Chris Pryor said the ordinance was modeled after a dog ban for a 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," Pryor said. "That's not my goal here." Councilor Emily Semple voted against the ban because she said "it does exclude homeless people because they have nowhere to leave their dog." Dogs, she added, give the homeless "companionship, protection, and warmth." In one downtown incident, a dog attacked a dog owned by a city library employee, killing the employee's dog and injuring the employee, said Councilor Betty Taylor. She called the incident terrifying but voted against the ordinance. "We don't ban a whole class [of people] just because something bad happens," she said. Violators could be fined as much as $250 per offense.