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Spokane hearing examiner upholds ‘dangerous dog’ label for pit bull that bit 5-year-old girl on her face

UPDATED: Thu., March 16, 2017, 10:49 p.m.

This five-year-old girl was bitten by a dog. (KHQ)
This five-year-old girl was bitten by a dog. (KHQ)

The city hearing examiner sided with Spokane County Regional Animal Protection in its decision to declare a pit bull that attacked a child last month as a dangerous dog, keeping the animal in SCRAPS’ control until the owners follow a strict set of guidelines if they want to keep him.

The ruling, which was released Thursday, sided with the conclusion animal control officers made when they were called to the 2000 block of West Jackson Avenue on Feb. 11 on a report of a gray and tan pit bull named Packman that bit a 5-year-old girl, leaving a wound on the girl’s face that required 40 stitches to close.

The girl apparently was petting another dog when the pit bull attacked her unprovoked.

SCRAPS officers declared the dog dangerous and impounded it on Feb. 14. The dog’s owners, Amber Scoggin-Norris and Chris Norris, appealed, and a hearing was held March 7.

In the hearing, the dog’s owners argued Packman was “a good dog with no history of aggressive behavior,” the decision reads. They also argued, the decision states, that the attack was an accident because the dog knew it made a mistake, and said that if it had been intentional, the little girl would have been more seriously hurt.

They further argued that the 5-year-old girl was partially at fault because they warned her multiple times “not to pick up the little dog if the dogs are playing,” according to the decision.

Hearing Examiner Brian McGinn disagreed with the assertion it was an accident and argued it was impossible for anyone to know Packman’s state of mind.

He also rejected the notion that the girl was at fault for picking up the dog, and found the explanation by the owners to be ironic, given that they said Packman “would never hurt anyone or anything.”

“Yet, the multiple family members thought it imperative to instruct (the girl), multiple times, not to pick up the little dog if the two dogs are playing,” he wrote. “There seems to be some underlying acknowledgment that ‘Packman’ posed some risk to the kids that failed to heed this instruction.”

Now that the dangerous dog designation is upheld, the owners can keep the dog if they comply with a strict fencing requirement and only take the dog out if it is leashed and muzzled. A $250,000 liability insurance policy is also required.

The owners told McGinn they couldn’t find an insurance provider and claimed the rule was unconstitutional.

McGinn dismissed the challenge on the basis of authority, citing state and local laws.

“The hearing examiner does not have authority to revise or ignore legislative enactments,” he wrote. “Nor does the hearing examiner have jurisdiction to determine whether the insurance requirement is constitutional or not.”

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