Bothell adopts new dangerous-dogs rules

“The idea was to give us more flexibility in identifying dangerous dogs,” said Bothell City Attorney Joe Beck, the primary author of recently adopted revisions to Bothell’s dangerous-animal ordinance.

“I think the changes we made strengthen our law and close some holes that existed,” said Mayor Mark Lamb.

City officials began looking at strengthening Bothell’s rules regarding vicious dogs after a pit bull allegedly attacked and killed another dog Aug. 3, 2009.

A resident of 241st Street Southeast, Diane Selin was walking her dog Ty when, according to various reports, a neighbor’s pit bull attacked Selin’s dog. Selin tried to pull the animals part, but with little success.

Ty died during surgery at a Bothell animal hospital. The pit bull was later destroyed, though its owner has two other animals.

“Our family had him for 11 years,” Selin said of Ty at the time of the incident. “And he really was part of the family... He was like one of my kids.”

Selin did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

At one point, City Council was at least discussing adoption of breed specific legislation. Probably not surprisingly, that idea attracted plenty of attention, both pro and con. In the end, Beck said the majority of officials were leaning away from breed specific rules or breed bans.

He said that theoretically such rules are legally possible and defensible. But Beck added Bothell almost certainly would have been taken to court over any breed-specific legislation.

Among the changes adopted at council’s April 6 meeting, Beck said the one key was the addition of several new definitions of “dangerous dogs.”

The same tact was taken with the definition of “potentially dangerous dogs.”

All in all, regarding dangerous dogs, the definition section was expanded from three definitions to seven. For example, one new definition reads, in part, “any dog that (has) demonstrated a propensity, tendency or disposition to attack unprovoked.”

Beck said the new rules impose further duties on the owners of dogs deemed dangerous or potentially dangerous. Those duties include registering such dogs, keeping them in specific types of enclosures and posting notices that the dogs are present. Selin said prior to the alleged attack, she had no idea pit bulls were being kept in her neighborhood.

As before, owners of dangerous dogs will be required to purchase liability insurance, however the needed amount has been greatly increased from $50,000 to $250,000. The insurance requirement for potentially dangerous dogs was left at $50,000.

Beck stated that one other major switch has to do with Bothell’s leash rules and will affect even dogs not deemed in any way dangerous. Previously, dogs needed only to be under what Beck called “voice control.” Under the new rules, all dogs must be leashed except in private yards or designated off-leash areas. None of the latter exist in the city to date.

Finally, Beck talked about adding an entirely new section imposing penalties for violations of Bothell’s animal rules. Basically, owners can be ticketed and fined up to $250. The rules note that separate infractions can be handed out for the same violation on different days.

According to Beck, the new rules all go into effect April 17. Enforcement is up to police and Bothell’s code-enforcement officer. The code officer usually deals with such situations as junk cars in a yard or similar violations of city laws.

Even as they discussed new rules on vicious dogs, local officials have been questioning who would be providing Bothell’s animal control in the future. The city currently contracts with King County for animal-control services, but, as a budget cutting measure, King County at one point announced it was getting out of the control business.

On April 7, a regional task force announced what it termed a new regional approach to animal control under which King County would be divided into four animal-control districts. Each district would have at least one animal-control officer.

Regarding animal shelters, the county would continue to operate its Kent facility, but Bothell and Kenmore would be asked to contract with the private PAWS shelter in Lynnwood.

Including Bothell and Kenmore, officials from each involved city still must sign off on the plan.

“Under a regional system, we can protect the health and safety of our residents, provide humane care for animals and license pets at less cost than by everyone going it alone,” said Carrie Cihak, director of strategic initiatives for the King County Executive’s Office.

Lamb said he was briefed on the idea by county officials last week. He said local officials have made no decision as to whether the city will sign on, but added Bothell could see the return of $15,000 in annual pet-license fees under the new plan.

“The county seems really committed to fixing their system,” Lamb said. “In the past, it certainly has not been a system that has worked.”

Kenmore officials were not immediately available for comment on the county plan.

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