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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Family files $175,000 claim over dog killed by deputy

Shots fired in defense when animal attacked, sheriff says

The owners of a dog shot and killed by a Spokane County sheriff’s deputy while he returned keys to a Greenacres home last summer have filed a complaint against the county for $175,000.

In the complaint sent to Spokane County on Monday, the family alleges Deputy Ryan Smith violated multiple department policies before firing three rounds at Cash, an 8-year-old dog identified in vaccination records as an American pit bull. In December, prosecutors announced their decision not to seek charges against Smith, finding that he “was acting legally within his community caretaking function when he entered the property.”

Smith drove to the home Aug. 27 to return a hat and keys that were left at another residence during a welfare check a few days prior. The deputy told investigators he believed Cash was restrained by an invisible fence, and he was surprised when the dog lunged at him as he approached the house to leave the keys and a cowboy hat near the residence. Smith also sounded his horn before approaching the Greenacres home, according to police reports.

But the attorney for the family says Smith walked past several signs warning visitors of dogs on the property and failed to use nonlethal methods available to subdue Cash. The complaint also said the Sheriff’s Office stopped the owner from tending to the dog that lay dying of gunshot wounds inside his home.

Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich said Smith was just trying to do his job and that the deputy was bitten multiple times by Cash. One bite, a biceps wound, required stitches to close.

“This dog actually got the deputy on the ground and was 8 inches from his throat,” Knezovich said.

Official reports indicate officers were concerned Cash may have rabies and prevented the dog from being moved before he could be tested, as a safety precaution. The last documented case of canine rabies in Washington was reported in 1987, according to the Department of Health.

Adam Karp is representing owners, the Brad Beck family, in the case. He said he didn’t understand why the Becks were prevented from offering aid to Cash following the shooting.

“The point is, getting the dog treatment would have absolutely nothing to do with whether the dog had rabies,” Karp said.

Karp, a Bellingham attorney, also represented the owner of Arfee, a 2-year-old Labrador that was shot and killed inside a locked vehicle by a Coeur d’Alene police officer in July. The city eventually paid Arfee’s owner $80,000, and the officer was found by a review board to have violated office policies in the shooting. Karp also obtained a $100,000 settlement for the owner of a dog shot in Des Moines, Washington, by an officer after it ran loose.

The county has 60 days to respond to the claim before the Becks could take the case to court.

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