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New hearing date is June 5; board says potential changes will be reviewed at May 8 work session, which is open to the public but not for offering testimony.

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: PETER WONG - Washington County commissioners at their business meeting Tuesday, April 17, when they put off consideration of an exotic-animal ban until June 5. They said they planned to discuss the ordinance and potential changes at a work session May 8.Washington County commissioners have put off a decision on whether to ban exotic animals or broaden some proposed exemptions.

Commissioners voted Tuesday, April 17, to continue the matter — which is in the form of a proposed ordinance — and said they would discuss their choices during a work session May 8.

June 5 is the new date for a public hearing.

"I want to bring this to a workable end," Board Chairman Andy Duyck said.

Despite a discussion at a work session on March 27, commissioners were divided on whether to proceed with the proposed ban or modify the ordinance, which already underwent a public hearing on Dec. 19.

Brad Anderson, senior assistant county counsel, said one change could allow more time — beyond the standard 30 days — for an ordinance to take effect. Another change would allow the keeping of exotic animals at a site if there is certification by a professional organization, such as the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Any changes by the commissioners would require a public hearing, even if there is a consensus at the May 8 work session, during which public testimony is not heard.

Commissioner Dick Schouten said the public can attend the work session.

"They can't actively participate," he said. "But they can listen in and see what the dialogue is. That would be helpful."

Schouten suggested that the next public hearing should be on June 26 — the board has an evening meeting then — but the board simply continued the matter to June 5.

State law empowers counties and cities to ban "exotic animals," defined as non-domestic cats and dogs, non-native bears, alligators and crocodiles, and primates. Beaverton has a similar ordinance and Hillsboro has a partial ban.

The proposed ban is not a land use regulation, but intended for health and safety.

According to Marni Kuyl, the county health and human services director, there are exceptions for the Oregon Zoo — which is in Portland's Washington Park, and outside Washington County — and the Oregon National Primate Research Center in Beaverton.

There is no proposed exclusion for pre-existing uses.

But one is sought by Walk on the Wild Side, a nonprofit that relocated last spring from Canby to a former horse farm near McKay Creek, south of Sunset Highway and north of Hillsboro.

A county hearings officer is weighing a separate recommendation to impose penalties against Walk on the Wild Side for land-use violations, which are disputed by owners Steve Higgs and Cheryl Jones.

The ordinance, however, is a separate issue.

Darin Campbell argued the case for some kind of exclusion for Walk on the Wild Side.

He said it would provide a place for wildlife education, horse training, animals used in connection with mental health therapy, and injured animals that need care.

"Walk on the Wild Side is a place to bring them."

Natanya Moore of Hillsboro offered a differing view. She said Walk on the Wild Side has not offered updated information on its website about its status or plans.

"I'm concerned about where the lions, the tigers and the bears are actually located," she said.

"I feel this should be investigated, not decided right away. Looking further into it would be wise."

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