Reacting to a series of dog attacks and problems in recent years in the Counties, both Stevens County and Spokane County in Washington State (and nationwide) have adopted new regulations for dealing with potentially dangerous and vicious dogs. Since I am a citizen of Stevens County, I will speak to the new Title 20 ordinance adopted in December 2007 by Stevens County.
Stevens County’s new set of dangerous dog laws is designed to put the accountability on the owner and not just the animal. At this date, Stevens County does not have any designated animal control authority other than the Stevens County Sheriff. Under its new Title 20 ordinance, the Stevens County Sheriff’s Office now has more authority to find that a dog is dangerous or potentially dangerous and impose corrective actions to protect the public. Owners are given further opportunity to appeal the Stevens County Sheriff’s designation to the courts.
By definition under the newly adopted Title 20, a “potentially dangerous” dog is one that has a known propensity, tendency, or disposition to cause an unprovoked attack or to cause injury or otherwise threaten the safety of humans or domestic animals. A “dangerous dog” has caused unprovoked severe injury to a human being, or has killed a domestic animal while off the owner or keeper’s property, or has previously been found “potentially dangerous” and aggressively attacks again or endangers safety. Both the “potentially dangerous” dog and “dangerous dog” designations under the Stevens County, Washington Title 20, carry similar consequences for owners and their dog(s). Stevens County has imposed more restrictive measures under the “potentially dangerous” dog designation than under current Washington State law.
If a dog is found to be “dangerous” or “potentially dangerous”, the owner must register the dogs within 14 days of the County Sheriff’s determination, and the registration will only be accepted if the owner agrees to placement of an identifying microchip inserted in the animal, payment of the first registration fee and an annual registration fee, and to keep the dog enclosed indoors or in a proper enclosure. Proper enclosure is defined under Title 20 as a kennel that contains an enclosed top as well as sides. If the dog is allowed outside the enclosure, it must be muzzled and restrained with a 3-foot chain with a 300 lb. tensile strength. An owner cannot sell or transfer ownership, custody or residence of the dog without notifying the County Sheriff and notifying the new owner of the dog’s record with an acknowledgment signed by the new owner of the terms and conditions of his maintenance while in Stevens County, Washington. In extreme cases, presumably the County Sheriff as the animal control officer has the authority to decide if the dog must be destroyed. While I can understand the adoption of Title 20 and its ordinances and the “dangerous dog” designation and the purpose and merit behind its adoption, the “potentially dangerous dog” designation appears to be nearly impossible to regulate and this particular designation is ripe …