City wants to ban deadly dogs


The Mirror

The Federal Way City Council approved tougher regulations regarding dangerous dogs.

But at least one council member questioned whether the changes go far enough.

At its June 6 meeting, the council approved the first reading of an ordinance designed to expand what the city defines as a dangerous dog.

Under the proposal, a dog that is considered dangerous would not be allowed in city limits. Dog owners who don’t oblige are subject to gross misdemeanor charges punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

The council will hold a second reading June 20 and decide whether to enact the ordinance into law.

The city’s existing definition incorporates state statutes, while other cities such as Auburn and Tukwila have added on their own criteria.

According to documents from the meeting, the state defines dangerous dogs as any dog that:

• Severely injures a person without provocation on public or private property;

• Kills a domestic animal without provocations while away from the owner’s property; or

• Has been found potentially dangerous, the owner has received notice and the dog again bites, attacks or endangers a person’s safety.

The city’s additions include dogs with a known tendency to attack without provocation, and dogs that bite with or without provocation after prior notice to the owner.

The council also approved modifications to the code calling for due process in notifying owners, and establishing a hearing and appeal process in determining dangerous or potentially dangerous dogs.

Along with expanded criteria for defining a dangerous dog, the council approved a measure to ban dangerous dogs from the city.

Councilman Jack Dovey, the lone “no” vote in a 6-1 decision, said the new rules would open the city up to more lawsuits.

Additional regulations, he added, would also put police in a no-win situation because they are already experiencing staffing issues with their current duties.

“I think this is bad legislation,” Dovey said.

Approving the additions, he said, would open a can of worms the city may wish it didn’t open.

This past January, pugs belonging to Michelle Jaroszek and Toney Mikesell were killed by a neighbor’s dogs.

Dovey said the push for tougher dog laws seems emotionally charged, adding he didn’t feel it made sense to change laws because of one incident.

While she approved the new rules, Councilwoman Linda Kochmar also asked for further review in six months to see if more restrictions are necessary.

“I don’t believe that this goes far enough,” she said.

Even with the new rules, Kochmar said the city’s laws would still allow a first bite to occur.

Kochmar also suggested breed-specific rules, citing pit bulls in particular.

Deputy Mayor Jim Ferrell said the city wasn’t quite ready for breed-specific legislation.

“I think this is a tailored and necessary measure,” he said.

During public comment, dog owner Kevin Morris spoke out against breed-specific legislation.

He also asked who gets to decide which dogs are considered dangerous.

According to the ordinance, classification of dangerous and potentially dangerous dogs will be left to animal control officers and the director of the King County Department of Public Health.

Morris offered an example where he and his dog were playing. A young girl got scared of the dog and, while walking away, tripped and injured herself. The injury was not the result of a dog attack, but an injury occurred nonetheless.

The vast majority of dog attacks, he said, are out of fear, not aggression.

He also asked council members not to punish dogs for the actions of their owners.

“I’m a major proponent of ownership responsiblity,” he said.

Several council members expressed interest in mandatory dog training and whether future legislation could include training requirements.

Councilman Dean McColgan said it might take a more tragic event to signal a need for tougher rules.

“I’m afraid we’ll get to that point and wish we were a little stronger,” McColgan said. “It does, at least, move us in the right direction.”

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