Law on dangerous dogs stirs debate


For The Mirror

Dog owners, be forewarned.

As of June 20, it’s illegal to keep animals determined as dangerous.

A new city ordinance is the result of a heated debate that has dominated discussions for the past seven or so months between the city council, city officials and everyday citizens.

It came to the forefront of discussion shortly after an incident last January, when Toney Mikesell and his girlfriend’s two pug dogs were attacked and killed by a neighbor’s pit bulls.

Although the dogs were euthanized by the owners, the debate continued.

The revised Federal Way City Code, chapter 4 more specifically, states that once a dog has been designated as a dangerous dog, “the dog must either be surrendered to the animal control authority or be removed from the city limits (Federal Way) within 72 hours.”

The designation is defined by both FWCC 4-1 and RCW 16.08.070. Any charge can be appealed by the owner if they’re convinced the charges are false.

When asked about the long-term impact of the ordinance, city attorney Pat Richardson said, “The complete ban within the city limits of dangerous dogs will help citizens in the long run.”

Not everyone holds the same belief.

Councilman Jack Dovey, the only city council member who voted against the stricter regulations, said the ordinance is both a repetition of laws currently on the books and is difficult to truly enforce.

“The ordinances must be black and white, or else they’d be open for interpretation. For example, a neighbor that doesn’t like a dog can claim it’s dangerous. I’m not against a law regulating dangerous dogs, I’m against passing laws that are difficult to enforce.”

Dovey went on to say that Federal Way citizens need to know for certain what they can and can’t do.

As for enforcing the dangerous dogs regulations, King County Animal Control, through a contract with the city, does this.

The greatest concern in the debate was the possibility that certain breeds, such as pit bulls and Rottweilers, would be banned altogether within the city’s limits, as the city of Auburn did toward the beginning of 2006.

Resident Bob Kellogg cited in a February 2006 letter to Mayor Mike Park about pit bulls:

“The fact is that nationwide, this breed is by far the deadliest and most frequent cause of severe dog bite injuries and deaths to other animals and humans.”

Kellogg goes on to cite cities that have banned the animal entirely, such as Denver, Colo., and Kirkland.

Mary Murphy, a Federal Way resident for more than 10 years, believes that violent owners, rather than an animal’s aggressive nature, produces violent animals.

“I’m more concern about domestic violence; dogs who are a threat to society have been mistreated by their owners.

Those same owners can also be abusive to others and their families.”

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