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City shies away from singling out certain dogs
BY PHILIP PALERMO
A City Council committee has recommended beefing up Federal Ways laws governing dangerous dogs, opting not to single out specific breeds.
The Parks, Recreation and Public Safety Committee members talked about possible additions to the city code at their May 8 meeting, with much of the discussion revolving around how to define a dangerous dog.
According to documents from the meeting, the citys current definition of a dangerous dog follows the states description:
The dog inflicts severe injury on a human without provocation, or kills a domestic animal without provocation while not on the owners property.
The dog has already been found potentially dangerous, the owner has received notice and the dog again aggressively attacks or endangers the safety of a human being.
The committees recommendation, which is scheduled to go before the full council in June, is to add three criteria to the list.
If the changes are approved by the council, the citys definition of dangerous dogs would include those that bite without provocation, attack without provocation or have been known to attack without provocation to injure or endanger humans or domestic animals.
The three-person committee voted against a fourth proposal to identify specific breeds as dangerous.
I wouldnt want to single out one breed, said Councilwoman Jeanne Burbidge, the committees chairwoman.
She added that specifying breeds could lead owners of others breeds to assume their dogs are safe.
Councilwoman Linda Kochmar, the lone council member in favor of breed-specific definitions, cited the city of Auburns recent incidents of dangerous dogs involving certain breeds. When Auburn first amended its dog laws, she said, they didnt include breed-specific language.
They were sorry they didnt, Kochmar said.
The Auburn City Council approved additional regulations in February, adding breed-specific language to their definitions of potentially dangerous dogs.
Federal Way Councilman Jim Ferrell said his citys history with dangerous dogs differs from Auburns.
I dont think our experience in Federal Way mandates that kind of action, he said.
With fellow committee members taking stances against breed-specific additions, Kochmar asked that the addition be at least reconsidered next year. The committee voted to leave breed-specific language for another time.
The committee also recommended banning dangerous dogs from the city and upping the penalty for violations of dangerous-dog laws from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor. Ferrell said a gross misdemeanor could mean up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Burbidge recommended making sure the penalties are well-known in the hope they serve as a deterrent.
Kevin Morris, who volunteers at the citys French Lake off-leash dog park, said hes against breed-specific legislation, adding dogs shouldnt be punished for the sins of their owners.
Morris also said the off-leash park is an effective method for reducing aggression in dogs because it helps them socialize with other canines and humans. The park, he said, also allows dogs to expend excess energy.
That is one of the most proactive means available, he said.
Staff writer Philip Palermo: 925-5565, firstname.lastname@example.org