Thursday, October 2, 2008
Sumner, WA - The Western Washington City of Sumner currently does not have a dangerous dog ordinance. Council member Matt Richardson has proposed an ordinance that would require pet owners moving into Sumner to inform the city if they've ever been convicted of a dangerous dog violation. Checking this box on the pet permit could possibly lead to a background check.
Under the proposed ordinance, dogs labeled "potentially dangerous" (PDD) would pay $250 for a permit and dogs labeled "dangerous" (DD) would pay $500. An off leash violation for either type of dog could cost up to $5,000. Officials are also considering requiring the owners of PDDs to hold a $50,000 insurance bond -- state law already requires that owners of DDs hold a $250,000 bond.
But what constitutes either label? Like many states, Washington dog laws are a combination of city, county and state laws. It appears that state law governs DDs and that PDDs are governed by locally adopted ordinances. That said, local authorities can also modify these labels to include reference to a specific breed. For instance, the City of Sumner could automatically declare all pit bulls to be PDD or DD.
Richardson's proposal only applies to "new" residents of Sumner. Likely because the proposal (and concepts pertaining to PDD and DD) are confusing, his idea has received mixed reactions from the public. Our own reaction is that the idea is interesting with one stiff caveat. If the owner of a PDD or DD dog moves into Sumner, why would he or she check the box admitting to be such an owner?
It seems that unless there is a state-wide registry for PDDs and DDs (a tracking system that has the dog's information as well as the owner's drivers license and other data), a person could move from one town to another within Washington without any worry of admitting their dog had such a label. The only city that would have meaning would be the city that the label was issued in.
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