Successful Appeal Brings Clarity to Definition of Dangerous Dog Designation– Posted by Sean V. Small
Do you own a dog? Close to half of all American families own at least one dog or at least one cat.
In a recent case, we helped a client (more specifically our client’s Labrador Retriever named Scout) successfully resolve a “Dangerous Dog” designation.
Most communities throughout Washington have regulations defining the term “Dangerous Dog.” A determination that you own a “Dangerous Dog” has severe consequences and often results in fines, additional permits fees, micro-chipping, review of your premises, photographic identification of the dog, proof that the dog has been neutered, and the requirement to obtain a bond or liability insurance policy in the sum of $500,000.
To be deemed a “Dangerous Dog,” most communities require that the dog either:
- Inflicted severe injury on a human without provocation while on public or private property;
- Has killed a domestic animal without provocation while off the owner’s property; or
- Has been previously found to be potentially dangerous.
In Scout’s case, he was accused of killing the neighbor’s cat while off his owner’s property without provocation. Scout had been deemed a “Dangerous Dog” by the Bonney Lake Police Department, a Hearing Examiner, and a Pierce County Superior Court judge. Throughout each proceeding, we repeatedly argued that the evidence presented was not sufficient and relied upon speculation and conjecture. Our office handled the appeal of the “Dangerous Dog” designation, and in a recent decision, the Court of Appeals agreed.
The primary issue on appeal was weather the City of Bonney Lake offered sufficient evidence to prove that the killing of the cat was unprovoked. Provocation is defined as (1) the act of inciting another to do something; (2) something (such as words or actions) that affects a person’s reason and self-control.
From the outset, we argued that there was not sufficient evidence to support the conclusion that Scout acted without provocation. Specifically, we asserted that there was no evidence offered to demonstrate how the interaction between the animals started and that the cat routinely walked across our client’s property. As such, the City of Bonney Lake could not prove the lack of provocation, an essential element of the definition.
The Court of Appeals agreed, and in doing so, has provided the courts and citizens with further clarity on what evidence is necessary for a dangerous dog determination to be made. Not only that, it made for one happy dog!