No one should be afraid to go for a walk alone or with their dog, or to let their children play outside, for fear of vicious free-roaming dogs or neighborhood dogs. Tragedies like the recent death of Diane Selin’s little dog Ty, and the mauling last fall of an elderly SeaTac woman, are preventable and should never happen.
These frightening and dreadful incidents and others like them have prompted the community to act out of fear and insist that lawmakers consider enacting new legislation aimed at dangerous dogs and even specific breeds of dogs. This is nonsensical. These legislators fail to take into consideration that Washington state, and King County specifically, has many laws that would prevent these tragedies — if they were adequately enforced.
Passing new laws is easy. It gives legislators a sense of accomplishment and something that they can brag about in a press release. It is much more difficult to demand that existing laws are adequately and fairly enforced. I am finding it more and more absurd as local governments try to pass new legislation to make citizens feel safer, rather than insisting that laws already on the books get enforced to make citizen safety a reality. New laws, and bans on specific breeds of dogs, are not going to make citizens safer — there is no reason to believe that they will be enforced any better than existing laws.
It is high time we demand that King County Animal Control become a function of the Sherriff’s Department or that each municipality hire its own humane officers to enforce the dangerous-dog law and the dog-confinement laws that are already in effect. Short of this, how can any town expect that any new legislation will be enforced?
Passing a new law in Bothell or adding stiffer penalties to existing laws will only penalize responsible owners who follow those laws. In the absence of enforcement, it will have no impact upon the small percentage of people who choose to flaunt existing laws and put their neighbors in danger.
Brenda F. Barnette
Chief executive officer, Seattle Humane Society