As they say, there is a right way and a wrong way to do things. Dean Codo seems to have chosen the latter. It’s one thing to insist that your neighbors keep their dogs leashed, but the Oregon man has gotten a reputation for yelling and harassing them about it, and last November, he assaulted one man over it. Last month, a jury convicted Codo of attempted coercion, harassment, and two counts of disorderly conduct, according to the Corvallis Gazette-Times. For all that, a judge sentenced him to 10 days in the county jail, 18 months probation, and a $1,000 fine.
This started because Mike Harvey and Joni Quarnstrom had some friends visiting them in Corvallis, Oregon. The friends had a Labrador Retriever who, after being cooped up in the car for several hours, needed to be taken for a walk. Harvey and Quarnstrom recommended that they go for a walk at the nearby Harding School, and they brought their own Border Collie along.
As Harvey acknowledged to the Gazette-Times, it’s illegal to bring dogs onto the school grounds, but because the schoolyard was empty, the dog-walkers believed it would be okay to bend the rules. They let the dogs off their leashes and watched while they played.
And then, Dean Codo came along. He did mind that the dogs were in the schoolyard, and even more that they were off their leashes. Codo doesn’t have any official responsibility for the school, or for dogs, but he has a reputation for running a personal crusade against dog owners who unleash their dogs in public places.
In a way, the man has a point. There are places where it’s appropriate to unleash your dog, and places where it’s not. Codo, a 52-year-old man who wears a prosthetic leg, says that people’s inability to abide by leash laws has made it impossible for him to go to city parks.
“There is no place I can go now where I will not be threatened by a loose dog, and I’m frustrated,” Codo said. “I’ve been bitten; I’ve been jumped on; I’ve been chased; and I’ve been growled at. It’s not the dogs’ fault; it’s their owners. Those people’s behavior is so outrageous, (but) they will not be told what to do.”
While the dogs were unleashed and playing, Codo entered the schoolyard and yelled at the couples. Harvey said he knew who it was without even looking. Codo swore at them and said he planned to call the police. The situation changed when they tried to leave, taking their dogs with them. Codo blocked the gate.
“He put his hands on my chest and said, ‘No, you can’t go, not until the police get here,'” Harvey said. “I said, ‘Look, you don’t want to do this,’ but he kept raging. … He must have pushed me about half a dozen times.”
Codo told the Gazette-Times he was defending himself: “He came at me. I pushed him back, open-handed. He came at me again, and I pushed him back, open-handed.”
Unfortunately for him, that didn’t fly in court. Although the jury found Codo not guilty on a charge of attempted assault, the other charges stuck. Most likely, the fact that Codo stopped the couples from leaving the schoolyard made his claim of self-defense a little less credible.
Again, Codo has a point: People should be careful about where they unleash their dogs and show respect for the needs of other people who use public spaces. That’s why dog parks, created specifically for that purpose, have become so popular. But as Christian Stringer, the prosecutor who tried the case, points out, Codo’s actions were inappropriate and out of proportion.
“A dog off-leash — that’s a ticket, perhaps. It’s not the end of the world,” he told the Gazette-Times. “My argument to the jury was that if someone’s speeding in your neighborhood, you don’t have the right to shoot their tires out.”
Despite the conviction, Codo says that he has no regrets: “People don’t understand why I’m motivated to do this. They think it’s a relatively minor incident. They seem to think my insistence is extreme and unwarranted.”
“By God, I am not giving up,” he told the paper. “I am determined to see that the law is enforced.”
What do you think? Is Codo’s crusade warranted? Or is he blowing things out of proportion?
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