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Resident pushes city pit bull ban

Tue., Sept. 9, 2008

City Council hears from woman who was attacked

When three dogs attacked Nancy Sonduck in her fenced North Spokane yard, 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,” Sonduck said, “and it did not faze it.”

It took a shovel-wielding neighbor more than five minutes to get the dogs out of the yard, and still they didn’t completely back off.

Since the April attack, she said she’s heard dozens of stories from neighbors who were attacked by pit bulls – and too intimidated by the owners to report it.

Sonduck brought the issue to the City Council on Monday seeking new ordinances 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.

“I’m not going to sit in silence and wait until someone is dead,” she said.

Five people, including Sonduck, testified at Monday’s Spokane City Council meeting about problems they’ve faced with pit bulls. Council President Joe Shogan promised that the council would explore the issue.

Gail Mackie, executive director of SpokAnimal, said a breed-specific ordinance is discriminatory and likely not legal. “Speaking as far as potentially dangerous dog incidents are concerned, we have all breeds,” Mackie said. “I did one today that was a Pomeranian.”

Nancy Hill, director of the Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service, said pit bulls and pit bull mixes make up almost half of the county shelter’s population; Mackie said many of the 1,500 calls SpokAnimal receives each month are complaints about pit bulls. “We do have a preponderance of pit bulls coming through the shelter – some are nice and some are not,” Mackie said.

Some Washington cities have breed bans. Wapato joined Yakima, Selah and Moxee this summer by banning pit bulls and some other breeds. Other cities have strict, breed-specific registration and licensing rules. A proposal was floated in Seattle last month, but not pursued by the city council.

Coeur d’Alene considered a breed ban earlier this year after two pit bulls jumped a fence and killed a neighbor’s cat. However, the city deemed the proposal too difficult to enforce and opted for a danger classification system not based on breed.

Mackie said the protocols in place, such as microchipping dogs labeled as dangerous, already are nearly unenforceable when the owners are uncooperative. Hill said it would be difficult to enforce restrictions on a particular breed.

“How would you determine it’s a pit bull?” she said.

She said that many pit bulls are good with people and that it’s better to enforce existing dangerous dogs laws, which are based on an animal’s behavior.

“There’s good and bad dogs in every breed,” Hill said.

Sonduck said she realizes there are some sweet pit bulls, along with responsible owners, but the stakes are too high. She’s not out to take rights away from pet owners, she said, but to make sure people who own dangerous dogs are held accountable. She said she’s heard from too many people who live in fear of neighborhood dogs.

“I have to get out of my car and pray to God those dogs aren’t loose,” she said.

Staff writer Jonathan Brunt contributed to this report.


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