Q&A for Proposed Exotic Animals Ordinance

Release date: 11/28/2017
Sponsored by: Health and Human Services Department

Washington County Department of Health and Human Services has drafted an exotic animals ordinance to ensure the safety of both people and animals. Following are answers to some questions you may have about the proposed ordinance.

Where will the ordinance apply?
The ordinance, if passed, will apply to unincorporated Washington County. Cities may opt in to the ordinance through an intergovernmental agreement with the County.

When will it go into effect?
The ordinance, if passed, will go into effect 30 days after the board approves it.

How did you decide which animals are okay and which ones aren’t?
In developing the ordinance, HHS took language from existing Oregon statutes to ensure that the ordinance is both lawful and enforceable. Oregon law provides the definition of an exotic animal, which allows people to keep certain species of animals. In addition, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife regulates under what conditions people can keep other wildlife, such as bears, wolves and cougars. Indigenous animals are part of the natural Oregon landscape and provisions are made to house and/or rehabilitate them as necessary. This ordinance is intended to prevent the introduction or keeping of species not normally found in the state of Oregon, such as lions, tigers, bears, monkeys and crocodiles.

While there may be exotic animals currently being kept in Washington County, there is no grandfathering provision included in this proposed ordinance.

How will this ordinance be enforced?
As with other County code violations, the ordinance is complaint-driven. In other words, staff won’t drive around the county looking for exotic animals; someone will have to file a complaint for any action to be taken. Professional staff knowledgeable about the codes and laws that pertain to privacy rights and other relevant issues will investigate any complaints.

Are the County’s code enforcement officers trained to seize exotic animals?
The County employs professional staff who are knowledgeable about the risks and challenges associated with handling dangerous exotic animals. Having that knowledge will help ensure that the proper steps are taken and the appropriate tools are used if a seizure becomes necessary. Local law enforcement may be involved if needed to ensure safety of our staff, the public or the animals.

What will the County do if they seize an animal? Where will they keep it and what will become of it? Will you euthanize the animal? 
These are all questions that would have to be determined based on the circumstances of a specific situation. It is our goal to reach a reasonable resolution in any situation that involves potential code violations. Voluntary compliance with the code would prevent the need for enforcement action. Decisions about any necessary enforcement action would include a clear, safe and reasonable approach that ensures public safety and humane treatment of any animals involved. Euthanasia would always be a last resort and can most easily be avoided by voluntary compliance with the code by people who own exotic animals.

How can I make my opinion on this ordinance known?
A public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for the board meeting taking place on Tuesday, December 19, 2017, at 6:30 p.m. This meeting will take place at the Washington Street Conference Center located on the ground level of the parking structure on the corner of SE Washington and S First in Hillsboro. At this time, any person may testify for up to three minutes. Please see the complete guidelines on testifying. If you cannot attend the public hearing or do not wish to testify, you can send a message to the Board of Commissioners through this contact form.

Media Contact:

Wendy Gordon, Communications Coordinator/PIO
503-846-3634
wendy_gordon@co.washington.or.us