Afraid Someone Will Die
Spokane, WA - A woman who was attacked by a pit bull back in April is now pushing for a ban in the City of Spokane. The town has been on the DogsBite.org Watch List since May. The numerous pit bull attacks, combined with dogfighting and two questionable animal agencies in a population of 200,000 signals a problem. Our last blog posts in July and May describe these issues in more detail.
The victim, Nancy Sonduck, was attacked by three dogs in her fenced yard. At the time, all she had to defend herself and her two dogs was a plastic gardening bucket. "I hit the pit bull in the middle twice in the head and it did not faze it," she said. It took a shovel-wielding neighbor more than five minutes to get the dogs out of the yard. Since the attack, she said she's heard dozens of stories from neighbors who were also attacked by pit bulls.
The victims were too intimidated by the owners to report it.
Sonduck brought the issue to the City Council on Monday seeking new laws against the breed, including a ban against any new pit bulls within city limits. She wants all existing pit bulls to be spayed or neutered. Five people, including Sonduck, testified at the meeting about problems they've faced with pit bulls. City Council President Joe Shogan promised that the council would explore the issue.
Gail Mackie, the executive director of SpokAnimal (city animal shelter), was possibly untruthful at the meeting. She said that a breed-specific ordinance is likely "not legal." Yet, section 16.08.090 of Washington state law specifically allows for them and many cities across Washington have breed-specific laws. In 1989, the Washington State Supreme Court also upheld the validity of the Yakima ban.
Mackie did admit that many of the 1,500 calls SpokAnimal receives are complaints about pit bulls. Nancy Hill, the director of SCRAPS (county animal shelter), said pit bulls and their mixes make up almost half of the shelter's population. Back in May, SCRAPS wanted to adopt out eight dogs that had been seized in a dogfighting bust. This is after the dogs had been returned to them due to issues with the dogs.
Both Mackie and Hill illustrate a formidable problem to city council members, the news media and the general public. When people want information about pit bulls, they often look to the directors of local animal agencies. Unfortunately, most of them label breed-specific laws as "canine racism" (a term unsupported by the US constitution) or it's "illegal" (not in Washington state), as a way to defend their beliefs.
Animal agencies consistently act as road blocks to cities wanting to develop breed-specific laws. If a city does manage to institute one, it becomes the animal agency's duty to enforce the law. If the agency was strongly opposed to the law in the first place, how can citizens trust them to enforce the new law? Once again, we come to the issue of whether or not some animal agencies can be trusted to enforce public safety.
07/29/08: Father Hangs Pit Bull After Dog Attacks Son
05/30/08: Pit Bulls in Spokane, Washington Can't Stay Out of the News
04/17/08: Pit Bull Attack Puts Owner in the Hospital