Category Archives: Washington State

Washington legislator pre-files bill, HB2117, to prevent breed discriminatory laws on state level

A bill has been pre-filed in Washington state that would prevent municipalities from enacting breed discriminatory laws.

The bill, House Bill 2117, was pre-filed for introduction on December 10th, 2013 by  Sherry Appleton.

The bill is to amend portions of the state’s dangerous dog statutes, in order to prevent municipalities from being able to enact breed discriminatory laws on the local level.

The introduction to the bill reads as follows:

(1)A number of local jurisdictions have enacted ordinances prohibiting or placing additional restrictions on specific breeds of dogs. While the legislature recognizes that local jurisdictions have a valid public safety interest in protecting citizens from dog attacks, the legislature finds that a dog’s breed is not inherently indicative of whether or not the dog is dangerous and that the criteria for determining whether or not a dog is dangerous or potentially dangerous should be focused on the dog’s behavior.
(2) The legislature further finds that breed-specific ordinances fail to address any of the factors that cause dogs to become aggressive and place an undue hardship on responsible dog owners who provide proper socialization and training. The legislature intends to redirect the focus away from particular breeds and to instead encourage local jurisdictions to employ more effective and data-driven prevention models to control dangerous dogs and enhance public safety.

It is not clear at this time how the issues of home rule or grandfather clauses will be addressed.

In 2013 there were 3 states that passed bills that prohibit breed discriminatory laws.  These laws passed with overwhelming support from legislators and received overwhelming support from residents of those states.

It is well documented that a multi-faceted community based approach to dangerous dogs is far more effective than breed discriminatory laws.  These types of laws protect the property rights of responsible owners and require that the issue of dangerous dogs be looked at comprehensively.

Washington state residents:  Please reach out to your Senators and Representatives and respectfully ask them to support this bill.  It is important for residents to be involved in the legislative process and voice their support of such bills.  Legislators cannot act on their constituents interests if they are not expressed.

You can find your legislator via the states website here: http://app.leg.wa.gov/DistrictFinder/

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Results of BSL: Yakima, Omaha, Terrell County, UK

The purported purpose of breed-specific laws is to increase public safety by reducing dog bites. This is the whole reason behind BSL.

As a community considers BSL, public officials and the news media have no difficulty finding shocking and appalling dog bite statistics that seemingly reinforce the need for BSL.

As such, we would likewise expect municipalities that have passed BSL to have no difficulty finding and publishing amazing statistics showing a sharp decline in dog bites after the passage of BSL. They should be able to easily prove the success of their discriminatory law by demonstrating a reduction in dog bites.

On the contrary, we get news articles like the following, which clearly demonstrate only the abject failure of BSL. Not only does BSL fail to reduce dog bites, it creates new problems.

Omaha, NE

Since Jan. 2009, Omaha, NE has had BSL for “pit bulls,” defined as American pit bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, Dogo Argentinos, Presa Canarios, Cane Corsos, American bulldogs, and any dog that resembles one of these breeds. Currently, dogs of these breeds of any age must be muzzled, leashed, and harnessed when in public, unless the dog has passed a Canine Good Citizen test.

In late 2009, the city cracked down on “pit bull” owners who were violating the new law, resulting in 90 citations in a six-month period. Because of the high volume of citations written, officials stated the law was “working better than expected.”

Officials claimed success again in 2010, after data showed that “pit bull” bites had decreased. But 2010 dog bite statistics from the city, obtained and analyzed by KC Dog Blog, showed that dog bites overall had increased, with Labrador Retrievers leading the pack. Non-“pit bulls” were now doing more biting, suggesting that the problem of irresponsible owners hadn’t gone away, it had just shifted from “pit bulls” to other types of dogs.

Humane Society officials at the time claimed that severe bites had decreased—but refused to provide any evidence of this. The city had only recorded an average 5 severe bites per year prior to the passage of BSL, so even if severe bites did decrease, it wouldn’t have been by much. And given that officials conveniently “failed to mention” that total dog bites had increased, it suggests that they’re being less than honest about the data.

This month, Omaha news media once again makes much ado about the number of citations written for violations of the city’s BSL. This, according to the city, means the discriminatory ordinance is working.

Just don’t look at their dog bite numbers. Public safety is apparently not what the ordinance is for.

Yakima, WA

Yakima has had a ban on “pit bulls” since 1987. Back in 2009, news media reported that “pit bulls” had filled the animal shelter to bursting. The single animal control officer spent a lot of his time responding to “pit bull” calls, usually to find that the “pit bull” was not really a “pit bull” after all. Nevertheless, the ACO said the law was “effective.” There was no mention of number of dog bites.

A recent news report from Yakima tells an interesting story. After a rash of dog bites, the city announced that it intends to start enforcing… the leash law.

That city officials pinpointed leash law enforcement over breed ban enforcement suggests several things: their breed ban is insufficient for promoting public safety; their dog bite problem isn’t a “pit bull” problem, it’s an irresponsible owner problem; and their animal control department is so understaffed that their animal laws aren’t being enforced.

Terrell County, GA

Terrell County commissioners passed restrictions on “pit bull” ownership at the beginning of the year, in response to a single incident in which sheep were killed by loose dogs.

A news article in March lamented that the animal shelter had since filled up with “pit bulls” and that the number of loose “pit bulls” had increased. In April, as the new ordinance goes into effect, the news media confirms that this trend has continued.

We find it extremely ironic that the BSL put in place because of loose dogs has only served to create more loose dogs and a much bigger problem. And even more ironic that the sheep owner who requested this law now claims to feel safer.

United Kingdom

The breed-specific Dangerous Dogs Act seems to be eternally under fire. A recent news article (“Time to tame our four-legged fiends,” The Independent, Tuesday, April 17, 2012)  noted these problems…

  • A rise in status dogs, linked to the breed-specific nature of the DDA. “The Kennel Club says the rise in attacks has been caused by the increased attractiveness of banned breeds, which it said are looked upon as ‘status dogs.’ Bill Lambert, a senior official with the Kennel Club, said the maligned Dangerous Dogs Act has ‘highlighted certain breeds as being particularly dangerous, which has attracted some people towards these dogs.'”
  • A high cost of enforcement of the DDA. “The Metropolitan Police alone spends about £2m a year on kennelling dogs that have been seized under the Act.” The Metropolitan Police is the London police force. £2m is about $3.1 million US.
  • Dog bites are sharply increasing. “The numbers have risen by 30 per cent over the past four years, according to NHS statistics. More than 6,000 people were treated in hospital in 2010-11 because of a dog attack.”
  • Non-targeted breeds are doing most of the biting. “Recent research by the injury lawyers First4lawyers suggested that nearly 30 per cent of people in Britain have been bitten by a dog, with attacks by Alsatians the most common.” Alsatians are German Shepherd-type dogs.

The government has been working on DDA revisions for years, but seems reluctant to acknowledge that the breed-specific portion is causing a lot of their problems (there’s a general feeling that it would be “political suicide” to repeal the breed-specific law). It remains to be seen whether the government will actually fix the DDA.

Lord Redesdale’s Dog Control Bill 2010-12, which would have replaced the DDA with breed-neutral dog control measures, appears to have died quietly in the House of Commons. It failed to clear the second reading stage in March and is not scheduled for further discussion.

Moses Lake, WA: BSL repealed

Moses Lake, WA, passed a breed-specific dog ordinance in 2008 that affected owners of “pit bulls,” Rottweilers, and Presa Canarios. The local news outlets carried very detailed breakdowns of council discussions and public objections as the ordinance worked its way through workshops, public hearings, revisions, and votes. We have an archive of the news stories here:  http://stopbsl.com/?s=moses+lake

Councilmembers Richard Pearce, Bill Ecret, Ron Covey (mayor), James Liebrecht and Dick Deane voted for the ordinance in 2008. Councilmembers Brent Reese and Jon Lane voted against it because it was breed-specific.

There’s been an election since then; Ron Covey and James Liebrecht, both pro-ordinance, have been replaced by David Curnel and Karen Liebrecht (possibly related to James?). Also since 2008, two Moses Lake residents separately made news, in January 2009 and June 2010, for their efforts to have BSL repealed. More recently, a resident filed a federal lawsuit filed against the city, alleging that the dog ordinance violates his civil rights.

Three years after the controversial ordinance’s passage, city council has voted to repeal the hazardous dog ordinance. Don’t celebrate just yet: it’s unclear exactly why the city council made this decision to repeal. Depending on their reasons,  it’s possible that they may revisit the ordinance at a later date.

Please contact Moses Lake city council and commend them for making a smart, fair, ethical decision for their citizens. You may also wish to explain the advantages of breed-neutral ordinances, and encourage them to choose breed-neutral measures in the future.
City of Moses Lake, P.O. Box 1579, 321 S. Balsam Street, Moses Lake, WA 98837
Phone: (509) 764-3701
Fax: (509) 764-3739

Moses Lake repeals dog ban

Updated: 8:16 am, Mon Oct 3, 2011.
By Cameron Probert, Herald staff writer

MOSES LAKE – The Moses Lake hazardous dogs ordinance was repealed.

The city council approved the move following an executive session at a recent meeting. […]

The city is presently facing a federal lawsuit from Nick Criscuolo, claiming the city’s enforcement of the hazardous dog ordinance violated his civil rights.[…]

Vancouver, WA: Animal control ordinance update, Oct 3

Vancouver, WA, is still struggling to update their animal control ordinance. In June, a breed ban was proposed, then quickly dropped in the face of strong public protest. A new (allegedly breed-neutral) ordinance was to have been ready for a vote in September, but it seems that they haven’t settled on the revisions yet.

The Vancouver council will again discuss animal control ordinance revisions during the October 3 council meeting. The item is on the agenda as follows:

4:00-5:00 p.m. Animal Control Ordinance Updates
Summary
At its August 8, 2011, workshop on updates to the City’s Animal Control ordinance, Council expressed interest in prohibiting dangerous dogs within city limits and information on other jurisdictions in Washington with such bans. City and Clark County Animal Control staff will provide follow-up information on other jurisdictions’ experience regulating potentially dangerous and dangerous dogs, provide recommendations and seek further Council direction. (Judith Zeider, Chief Assistant City Attorney 487-8521; Paul Scarpelli, Clark County Animal Protection and Control – Interim Manager 397-2375 x 4705)

Council meetings take place in Council Chambers, City Hall, first floor, 210 East 13th Street. Although the council has disavowed a breed ban, some other kind of BSL may still be a possibility. The public is encouraged to attend the next council meeting to make sure the revisions continue to move in a breed-neutral direction.

All alerts for Vancouver, WA: http://stopbsl.com/?s=%22vancouver%2C+wa%22

Contact info for mayor and city council
Tim.Leavitt@cityofvancouver.us; Jeanne.Harris@cityofvancouver.us; Jeanne.Stewart@cityofvancouver.us; Larry.Smith@cityofvancouver.us; Pat.Campbell@cityofvancouver.us; jack.burkman@cityofvancouver.us; bart.hansen@cityofvancouver.us

Seattle, WA: Group to demonstrate to ban “fighting breeds” from parks, Sept 1

What: A group called “Families and Dogs Against Fighting Breeds” will be holding a demonstration / rally / petition signature gathering event on September 1, 2011 (this Thursday) at 5:30 PM at Westlake Park, 401 Pine Street, Seattle. The group is pushing the Seattle city council to ban “fighting breeds” of dogs from city parks.

More Details: FDAFB defines “fighting breeds” as: Akita, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Cane Corso, Dogo Argentino, Dogue de Bordeaux, Juvasz, Presa Canario and Tosa Inu. However, their primary focus has been on “pit bull”-type dogs.

Note that FDAFB’s initiative is not an effort to stop dog fighting, or to punish owners who engage in such training and abuse, or even to regulate individual dogs that have been raised and trained to fight. As with most groups that are supportive of BSL, FDAFB is unconcerned with a dog’s actual genetics, breed history, or training. All that matters is that the dog “looks like” one of the breeds that the group considers a “fighting breed.” (Even the group’s list of “fighting breeds” does not appear to be based on a set of criteria that makes sense.)

The group’s founder, Ellen Taft, has made headlines in the past for her efforts to discriminate against owners of certain dogs; her early efforts included calling for “fighting breeds” to be prohibited from serving as assistance dogs for people with disabilities, and in 2008 her group tried to get the Seattle city council to ban “pit bulls” from the city. She is associated with Dogsbite (Colleen Lynn) and the two groups have worked together.

City Council Says:  Many Seattle city council members have stated that they are unsupportive of BSL and breed bans. The apparent exception at this point is councilmember Tom Rasmussen; Taft says that Rasmussen agreed to support the group’s efforts to ban “fighting breeds” from parks if the group could show that there was enough public support for it.

How to Show Your Opposition:  Opinions are divided as to the best way to oppose FDAFB’s initiative. There are two prominent options on the table. You may choose neither, or one, or both.

1. Contact Seattle city councilmembers and express your opposition to any kind of BSL or ban, including a breed-specific ban in city parks (or anywhere else). You may also wish to express your opposition to FDAFB’s discriminatory agenda in general—so that council members will remember the public’s sentiments no matter what idea FDAFB is trying to push. You can find Seattle councilmembers’ contact info here: http://www.seattle.gov/html/citizen/city_officials.htm  Please remember, only Tom Rasmussen has publicly expressed support for FDAFB; please correspond with council as if they are generally in agreement with you (remain polite, informative, and succinct—do NOT attack or insult). Let’s keep city council on our side, not piss them off.

2. Attend one of the counter-rallies on Sept 1. Families Against Breed Bans is the largest known group that is planning a response. If you plan to go this route, please remember to be responsible and respectful (and please consider that most dogs should probably stay home). A counter-rally can be a good way to visibly and vocally combat discrimination. On the flip side, the mere existence of a counter-rally can unintentionally lend credibility to FDAFB—in addition to any negative incidents that may occur at the counter-rally. Be aware of the need to be on your best behavior.

StopBSL does not intend to officially track this issue unless and until a councilmember agrees to write up a breed-specific ordinance—but we will be keeping an eye on developments and will issue alerts if an elected official takes up the flag in support of BSL.

Vancouver, WA: Strict breed-neutral dog ordinance in the works

Faced with strong, organized public protest, Vancouver, WA, city council backed away from plans for a breed ban, and appears to be pursuing a strict—but breed-neutral—dangerous dog ordinance instead.

The new ordinance will be read during the Sept. 12 council meeting, and a public hearing and council vote may take place as early as Sept. 19. Council meetings take place in Council Chambers, City Hall, first floor, 210 East 13th Street. The public is encouraged to attend these council meetings to offer feedback on the proposal.

All alerts for Vancouver, WA: http://stopbsl.com/?s=%22vancouver%2C+wa%22

Contact info for mayor and city council
Tim.Leavitt@cityofvancouver.us; Jeanne.Harris@cityofvancouver.us; Jeanne.Stewart@cityofvancouver.us; Larry.Smith@cityofvancouver.us; Pat.Campbell@cityofvancouver.us; jack.burkman@cityofvancouver.us; bart.hansen@cityofvancouver.us

City mulls strict dangerous dog policy

Unprovoked attacks could lead an animal to be banned from Vancouver

By Andrea Damewood, Columbian Staff Reporter
Monday, August 8, 2011

[…] The policy wouldn’t ban pups who, unprovoked, make a minor nip that barely breaks the skin. Those dogs would be named “potentially dangerous.” But if that dog does it again, it could be labeled a dangerous dog — and would no longer be allowed in Vancouver. Or, if a dog with no previous history of aggression, unprovoked, inflicts severe injury — broken bones or disfiguring lacerations that need multiple sutures or plastic surgery — or kills a domestic animal or livestock, it too could be deemed a dangerous dog and could no longer be kept in Vancouver.

The policy the city council discussed would make Vancouver’s law stricter than those in unincorporated Clark County. […]

Full article retrieved 8/9/11 from http://www.columbian.com/news/2011/aug/08/city-mulls-strict-dangerous-dog-policy/ 

Vancouver, WA: City workshop to discuss proposed ordinance revisions, Aug 8

Although Vancouver, WA, has publicly called off plans to ban “pit bulls,” breed-specific restrictions of some kind have not been officially nixed. The city council is holding a work session on Monday, Aug 8, at 4:00 PM in council chambers to discuss recommendations made by city staff. Residents and locals are encouraged to attend the work session to determine whether any ordinance revisions will be breed specific.

Following the work session, at 6:30 PM, the city council will hold a consent agenda meeting that ends with a citizen forum. The public may speak to the council on any topic during the citizen forum.

All alerts for Vancouver, WA: http://stopbsl.com/?s=%22vancouver%2C+wa%22

Contact info for mayor and city council
Tim.Leavitt@cityofvancouver.us; Jeanne.Harris@cityofvancouver.us; Jeanne.Stewart@cityofvancouver.us; Larry.Smith@cityofvancouver.us; Pat.Campbell@cityofvancouver.us; jack.burkman@cityofvancouver.us; bart.hansen@cityofvancouver.us

Council meetings take place in Council Chambers, City Hall, first floor, 210 East 13th Street. 

Workshop Agenda from http://www.cityofvancouver.us/councilmeetings.asp?menuid=10462&submenuID=10474&itemID=84668

WORKSHOPS (City Council Chambers)

4:00-5:00 p.m. Animal Ordinance Updates
Summary

In May, 2011, the Vancouver City Council adopted amendments to the City’s Animal Ordinance, VMC 8.24 VMC, which brought the City and County penalties for noncompliance into alignment. During the process of developing those changes, staff from the City and from Clark County Animal Protection and Control identified a number of other provisions of the City Animal Ordinance which needed updating. The City’s Animal Ordinance has not had a general review since the mid-1980’s.

Staff has been meeting since May to further fine-tune proposed changes. Their recommendations were presented to and unanimously endorsed by the Clark County Animal Protection and Control Advisory Board July 28th. Staff will now review with Council the recommended changes to the City’s Animal Ordinance and seek Council direction. (Judy Zeider, Chief Assistant City Attorney, 487-8521; Paul Scarpelli, Clark County Animal Protection and Control Manager, 397-2375 ext. 4705)