The Spokane City Council should rethink, and rescind, a week-old resolution supporting relief for the owners of dangerous dogs.
Since its passage on a 5-1 vote, the following has happened;
• An 8-year-old girl was attacked by a pit bull. Had two bystanders not intervened – one taking 40 stitches to his arms and face for his bravery – the girl might easily have been killed.
• Another pit bull attacked a police K-9 named Laslo that was pursuing a burglar Monday. The dog’s handler had to shoot the pit bull when it would not let go of Laslo’s leg, which required six stitches.
• The Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service took a dog registered as “dangerous” into custody Tuesday after it attacked another dog and bit the owner.
Relief for the owners of these dogs? Crazy.
• The council acted after an appeal from a woman who said she was unable to comply with a state requirement that owners of dangerous dogs carry $250,000 in liability insurance, or a bond in the same amount. Her dog was destroyed in 2012 because, she said, she could find no insurer willing to write such policies.
The overly sympathetic Spokane City Council responded with a resolution asking the Washington Insurance Commissioner to work with the Legislature on measures that would make the required policies more affordable.
They may not be affordable, but they are available and prudent.
In December, before SCRAPS took over responsibility for animal enforcement within the city, 14 dangerous dogs were registered with the agency. To obtain registration, owners must buy that insurance, and comply with a list of other measures to assure their animals do not reoffend. Dogs are declared “dangerous” if they attack and cause severe wounds to a person or another animal, or if previously found “potentially dangerous” after less serious attacks.
Among the dangerous dogs were an Australian shepherd, German shepherd, two Siberian huskies and four pit bulls. Several different companies had written the insurance policies on the dogs, but SCRAPS Director Nancy Hill says she does not know how much they cost.
The policies almost certainly are expensive, but Hill says some owners are willing to pay them year after year, plus a $100 annual registration fee, because of their attachment to their dogs.
They are acting responsibly, but their dogs have been declared dangerous for very good reasons. The requirement owners carry $250,000 in insurance seems modest compared with the magnitude of the potential claims. Would that have begun to compensate the mother of that little girl, had she been killed?
What’s the cost to the city if a trained dog like Laslo is no longer able to perform in the field and must be replaced?
The affordability of insurance for dangerous animals should be of no concern to the City Council. The events of the last week amply demonstrate why those liability policies are necessary.
Any legislator who looked at the resolution, and subsequent incidents, might justifiably question how the City Council sets its priorities.