Starting the first of next year, dogs declared “dangerous” will no longer be allowed in Sequim city limits.
Sequim city councilors unanimously approved an update to the city’s “Potentially Dangerous and Dangerous Dogs” ordinance, 6-0 with Bob Lake excused, at their regular council meeting on Oct. 23.
Changes to the code from 1999 follow state guidelines, said City Attorney Kristina Nelson-Gross.
“The state has made clear that local jurisdictions are not required to keep dangerous dogs in their jurisdiction,” she said.
If a dog goes from being declared “potentially dangerous” to “dangerous,” then the dog owner has one of three options: humanely euthanize the dog, send it to a secure animal shelter in city limits paid for by the owner (which currently doesn’t exist), or remove it from city limits and hold it in compliance with state law.
If a dog is declared “dangerous” before Jan. 1, 2018, Nelson-Gross said its owner could apply to keep the dog in city limits if there is a proper enclosure for the dog with signage about the presence of a dangerous dog inside, equip the dog with a microchip, and hold insurance worth at least $250,000 to cover any injury inflicted by the dog.
Dogs that first bite or hurt a human and/or another animal are first declared “potentially dangerous” for a few reasons such as if it inflicts a bite that penetrates the skin on a human or domestic animal unprovoked, and/or if it chases or threatens a person in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack when unprovoked. A district court judge makes final determination on the dog’s status.
Dogs declared “dangerous” can be repeat offenders for inflicting severe injury without provocation to humans and/or animals, or for killing a domestic animal or livestock.
City councilors did not comment on the ordinance prior to appriving it on Oct. 23.
Nelson-Gross previously said the ordinance wouldn’t apply in the Sequim Dog Park but there are signs at the park that say “enter at your own risk.” City staff also plan to add signage stating that the “dangerous dog” policy doesn’t apply here.
Sequim residents Terry and Ann Moore attended and spoke during public comments after their incident with three “potentially dangerous” dogs in September.
Terry Moore reported to Sequim Police he was bitten outside his home on Sept. 23 by three neighboring pit bulls resulting in eight stitches on his left arm and rabies treatment because the dogs’ vaccinations were outdated. The dogs have since been declared “dangerous” and euthanized.
Ann Moore asked for a ban in the city on pit bulls. “When it comes to protecting the life of a dog versus a human, it is best to err on the side of protecting human life,” she said.
She also shared concern that if it was a child bitten instead of her husband it “most likely” could have been fatal.
“Let’s prohibit pit bulls. It’s time to put some teeth in our laws,” Ann Moore said.
Two other nearby residents of the Moores spoke about their experiences with the dogs who were euthanized.
David Potter said he wants to ban pit bulls in city limits after he and a friend were cornered by the dogs and he was only able to escape by running into his backyard and closing the gate. Potter also feared that it could have been his children who were chased because they were playing in his front yard shortly beforehand.
Debra Wilkie said she and her dogs were attacked by the dogs but the city has to “judge each dog on its own merit.”
“I am also very much in favor, if the owners have not done what the city has required them to do then they should be held responsible,” she said. “I would go as far as criminal charges against them.”
Previously, Sequim Police said they were formulating charges against the dogs’ owners Collen Lowry and Michael Rensberger. They’ve been fined before when their dogs were declared “potentially dangerous,” but that does not prohibit them from owning more dogs, police officials said.
Another nearby resident, Ruth Marcus, said she’s feared to walk by the dogs’ home in her neighborhood, but she believes “dogs are what owners train them to be.”
She asked the city require “potentially dangerous” dog owners be required to have steel fencing and grating that goes into the ground prohibiting them from getting out.
The updated ordinance maintains that these dog owners have a “proper enclosure.”
After city councilors approved the ban, Terry Moore said he’s “absolutely glad” that the city banned “dangerous dogs.” However, Ann Moore said the ban “wouldn’t have helped us because the dogs that bit Terry were ‘potentially dangerous’ dogs.”
The couple said they wanted more in place for “potentially dangerous” dogs too.
For more information about the updated “potentially dangerous and dangerous dogs” policy, visit www.sequimwa.gov or call 360-683-3311.