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Council to vote on off-leash areas, hours

On Aug. 13, the Portland City Council will vote on whether to create off-leash hours and additional off-leash areas for dogs in Portland parks.

Laurelhurst Park where at least a dozen dogs appear to have been intentionally poisoned earlier this month is on the off-leash hours list. So are Brentwood, Sellwood and Willamette parks in Southeast Portland and Grant Park in Northeast.

The list will be filled out with enough other as-yet-undesignated parks to give each of the city's five geographic areas approximately four off-leash hours parks, according to city Commissioner Jim Francesconi, who oversees Portland Parks & Recreation. Other parks being considered for off-leash hours are North Portland's Cathedral Park and Southwest Portland's Albert Kelly and Willamette parks.

If approved, dog owners will be able to exercise their dogs off-leash anywhere in these parks between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. and after 9 p.m. daily.

The council also will vote on whether to create four new off-leash areas in city parks. Francesconi, who announced the proposed vote on Monday, would not say which parks are being considered for those areas.

Any changes will be implemented 'as soon as possible' after the vote, according to parks spokesman Sarah Bott.

Currently, Portland has only 25 legal off-leash acres to serve 140,000 dogs, based on Multnomah County officials' estimate of the licensed and unlicensed dog population. And all but 1.5 of those acres are clustered in North Portland, while the county's licensed dog population is concentrated in Southeast Portland, according to a recent Portland State University graduate student study.

If approved, the new off-leash hours and areas would constitute an abrupt acceleration in city decision-making about dogs in parks, the No. 1 public complaint received by the parks department in recent years.

On June 18, the City Council approved giving Multnomah County Animal Control $500,000 in city money during a five-year period to enforce leash and scoop laws in Portland parks. But the city budget approved the same day contained no money for expanding the off-leash area program beyond its existing 25 acres.

Janine Robben