SEQUIM — Starting the first of next year, dogs declared dangerous will no longer be allowed in Sequim city limits.
City Council members unanimously approved, without comment, an update to the city’s Potentially Dangerous and Dangerous Dogs ordinance with a 6-0 vote with Bob Lake excused 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 bite or hurt a human and/or another animal can be 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 the final determination on the dog’s status.
Dogs can be declared “dangerous” if they are repeat offenders that inflict severe injury without provocation on humans and/or animals or kill a domestic animal or livestock.
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 on Monday told of an experience in September with three dogs deemed potentially dangerous.
Terry Moore reported to Sequim police he was bitten outside his home 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pit bulls, resulting in eight stitches on his left arm and rabies treatment because the dogs’ vaccinations were outdated.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 on pit bulls in the city.
“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 that 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 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 was afraid to walk by the dogs’ home in her neighborhood.
She asked that the city require potentially dangerous-dog owners to have steel fencing and grating dug into the ground, preventing them from getting out.
The updated ordinance requires that dog owners have a proper enclosure.
After City Council members 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.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].