Jefferson County looking into leash law

Animal control code may be updated

PORT TOWNSEND — County Commissioners are eyeing updates to the animal control portion of the Jefferson County code that requires dogs to be on a leash when not on their property.

The proposed changes, which may include updates to other definitions, could allow the county to have more than one designated animal shelter, which would allow sheriff’s deputies to work more easily with Center Valley Animal Rescue in conjunction with the Jefferson County Humane Society.

The code changes were presented to the commissioners Monday by Matt Tyler, county Parks and Recreation manager; Randon Draper, deputy prosecuting attorney; Philip Hunsucker, chief civil deputy prosecuting attorney; and Sheriff Joe Nole.

The proposed leash law would require all dogs that are not on the property of their owner, keeper or handler, to be on a leash up to 8 feet long, with their owner, handler or keeper maintaining control of the leash, Nole said.

That excludes specific off-leash dog parks like the one at Mountain View Commons in Port Townsend.

Current animal control policies allow for dogs to run while under verbal commands from their owner. However, the county has had issues with owners not controlling their dogs and letting them run free.

Hunsucker said it is impossible to enforce the policy since there is no way to prove whether or not a dog is under control through verbal commands.

“It’s almost impossible to enforce the ordinance if you don’t have this provision in it,” Hunsucker said. “If they’re on a leash, there’s no doubt.”

Animal control officers won’t be patrolling, looking to write tickets for people who don’t have their dog on a leash, but if an incident occurs, such as a bite or an attack, the proposed law would give them the ability to write a ticket if necessary, Nole said.

“Just because it can be enforced doesn’t mean it has to be,” Nole said.

The change to allow more than one designated shelter for Jefferson County would streamline the process of getting injured animals to proper care and save the county money, Nole said.

Currently, the humane society doesn’t have veterinary care, and the code requires deputies to drive to Poulsbo for emergency cases. By modifying the code to allow more than one, it would allow deputies to transport injured animals to Quilcene’s Center Valley Animal Rescue, which has the capacity to care for severely injured animals, Nole said.

Nole has been coordinating with Center Valley staff for a while to work toward the proposed change, he said.

“It offers more opportunities for everyone involved in this,” he said.

The definition of a “dangerous dog” would also be modified in the proposed changes. It would include any dog that inflicts severe injury to a human without provocation while on public or private property or kills a domestic animal or livestock without provocation off of their owner’s property, or was previously found to be potentially dangerous prior to an injury inflicted on a human and the dog again aggressively bites, attacks or endangers the safety of humans, according to commission documents.

A potentially dangerous dog is one that, when unprovoked, inflicts bites on a human, domestic animal or livestock, or chases or approaches a person aggressively, or a dog with a known tendency to attack or threaten the safety of humans, animals or livestock, the documents said.

The definition of a domesticated animal would be expanded from just dogs and cats to include an “animal that is customarily devoted to the service of humankind at the place that it normally lives,” the documents said.

The commissioners are expected to set the time and date for a public hearing on the proposed changes during their next meeting on April 19.

The full proposed code changes can be read at


Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected]

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