The Wallowa City Council made the right decision last week when it voted to authorize the sheriff’s office or a city official to issue citations regarding the city’s animal ordinance.
In the past, the city adopted a plan to leave a “door hanger” notice at the property of a home that is in violation of the ordinance.
That isn’t working.
The heart of the issue is that the ordinance restricting the number of animals allowed on a specific property is being ignored. The decision last week puts the city closer to prosecuting ordinance violators. The legal requirements are straightforward. Circuit and municipal courts typically have jurisdiction over ordinance violations and a city attorney can prosecute such cases in circuit court.
One issue the council does face is what agency will serve the ordinance violations. City Attorney Roland Johnson said usually it is a police department that would serve a citation, but Wallowa has no police force.
The council did agree to ask the sheriff’s office if it could issue the citations. That route may be a good idea, but whether the sheriff’s office has the resources for that task remains an unanswered question.
The key takeaway, though, is the council is serious about doing something to address the failure of some who ignore the ordinance violations.
The ordinances created by a city are not crafted out of the blue. They are created by elected members of the public who review specific situations and develop plans to mitigate issues that become out of control.
A good case can be made that perhaps some homeowners are just confused about what the ordinance violations mean in real terms. That’s why the decision by the council to begin moving in a direction that puts a bit more severity in the ordinance violations is a good idea.
Hopefully, a situation where homeowners find themselves in court over an ordinance violation will never arise. But, if not, then the council is on the right track to ensure its mandates are followed through and not ignored.