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City’s dangerous dog ordinance gets teeth

POULSBO — Before the Poulsbo City Council unanimously passed a new dangerous dog ordinance June 20, former city employee Colleen Smith had a few words to say.

Her healing scars spoke louder, though.

Smith, who is recovering from a May attack by a pit bull, an incident which spurred city officials to update Poulsbo’s dangerous dog regulations, was brief in her remarks.

“Thank you for taking your dangerous dog ordinance and making it a little tougher,” Smith told the council.

Interim Poulsbo Police Chief Jake Evans reminded the council it had tasked his department with developing a new ordinance in light of the May attack.

“The ordinance we’re putting before you we think is legally defensible,” Evans said.

Instead of being breed specific, the city’s ordinance is based on the dog’s behavior and puts the responsibility on the owner, Poulsbo Police Sgt. Howard Leeming said.

“One of the things we’ve found in our research is that breed-specific ordinances are being challenged right and left by breeders’ associations,” Evans said. “We tried to stay away from that and focus on the behavior of the dog and responsibility of the owner.”

In the new regulations, the city has changed its definitions of potentially dangerous dogs and dangerous dogs, Leeming said.

Those definitions are from the Revised Code of Washington, so once a dog is identified as potentially dangerous by a court or Kitsap County animal control, immediate action can be taken, he said.

“We can make the owner go to specialized training. We can require the owner to have a kennel or specialized fence,” he said. “We can also require visible signs.”

The city can seek restitution from the dog’s owner for the costs involved with dealing with the problem, Leeming said.

After Leeming explained the new ordinance, Councilman Dale Rudolph asked about dogs,which previously resided in his neighborhood.

“The dogs would bark and get their nose under the fence trying to get at us,” Rudolph said. “Would that meet your definition of a potentially dangerous dog?”

Leeming responded that such behavior would, in his opinion, meet that criteria.

“I can’t see any situation, where a court wouldn’t agree with that,” he said.

When it comes to reporting potentially dangerous dogs to the proper authorities, residents shouldn’t consider it “ratting on your neighbors,” Councilman Jim Henry said.

“It could prevent a potentially dangerous situation,” Henry said.

The city’s new regulations could be a role model for other cities throughout the state that are attempting to deal with the issue, Mayor Kathryn Quade said.

“It doesn’t allow dogs one bite, which is what I intended to do,” Quade said.

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