Town council takes next step to update dangerous dog ordinance
August 20, 2020
On Monday, the Cathlamet Town Council approved the redrafting of a breed specific ban on dogs within the city limits. Town Attorney Fred Johnson has been directed to draft a breed blind ordinance to be deliberated on at a future date.
Also discussed was the announcement of this year’s county fair going online; an announcement of the wastewater treatment plant’s Outstanding Performance Award for a year without violations; there was an RFP approval for improvements on town hall’s office structure including the addition of an awning, new paint, signage and flower pots; they approved a service agreement with Code Publishing to review the town’s municipal codes to “identify any legal issues or repetitive information;” they failed to approve a motion to form a steering/advisory committee for the Butler Lot, and they passed a motion to include non-profit organizations as eligible recipients of the CARES Act Grant Funds.
After Washington state legislators updated their dangerous dog laws in 2019 and following the pitbull incident of late last year, the town council has been working to rework its own ordinance. Council members have requested revisions to their pitbull related ordinance since January of this year but have tabled the discussion since March due to coronavirus.
The main deliberation amongst council members was whether the ordinance should include a breed specific ban or include any dog that demonstrates violent behavior.
“On one side of the coin, certain dogs have a greater tendency to be vicious. The other side says well, that data may not be very valid and we don’t need any breed specific ordinances, we need robust dangerous dog ordinances,” Johnson said.
Originally, the council was set to vote on Ordinance 628-20, an amendment to the current city municipal code. If passed, the amendment would render the town’s current dog ordinance enforceable by increasing the dollar amount paid to the sheriff’s department (the town contracts with the sheriff's department for law enforcement services).
Deliberation over ordinance language and supporting data, however, led to further debate.
Councilman Bill Wainwright took the position of a breed specific ordinance: “We have to get it addressed and enforced...if we just left it as dangerous dog, I don’t know how we could enforce it...I don’t know how you could connect the dots to having the rottweilers and pitbulls required to take the AKC certification if they weren’t recognized [by their breed].”
The AKC Canine Good Citizen Test or an equivalent behavioral test determines which dogs may be possessed within a city or town, according to the town’s current dog ordinance.
Council Member Paige Lake held a different viewpoint. “I don't think we need to specify which dogs we don’t want,” she explained. “I feel like we are trying to put a bandaid on a gunshot wound...we need to enforce dangerous dog laws.”
Lake also noted that according to a report by the American Temperament Test Society, Bearded Collies are about 30% less likely to pass a behavioral dog test than Rottweilers (84.7%) and American Pit Bull Terriers (87.4%).
Presented alongside that report was a statistic from ANIMAL 24-7, a nonprofit independent news source covering humane work, which states that from the data they collected, Pitbulls and Rottweilers made up 72 percent of the 5,460 dogs reported as perpetrators of an attack or fatal incident.
A motion by the council was eventually passed which authorizes Johnson to revise the deliberated ordinance and appeal breed specific language. The amended ordinance will be discussed at a future meeting.