End Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) in the City of Pasco
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On November 5, 2019, Kennewick City Council members voted 4-2 in favor of repealing breed specific legislation which unfairly defined any American Pitbull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or any mix thereof as potentially dangerous animals. Kennewick's neighbor, the city of Pasco, is now the only one left in the Tri-Cities area with breed specific legislation and we think it's time to change that.
PMC 6.05.010 (17) describes Pasco's definition of a Potentially Dangerous Animal:
"Potentially Dangerous Animal means any animal that when unprovoked:
(a) inflicts injury on a human or a domestic animal, or
(b) chases or approaches a person upon the streets, sidewalks, any public grounds, or upon private property other than that of the animal’s owner, in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack, or
(c) has a known propensity, tendency, or disposition to attack, or to cause injury or otherwise to threaten the safety of humans or domestic animals, or
(d) is a Pit Bull Terrier which means any American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier breed of dog or any mixed breed of dog which contains as an element of its breeding the breed of American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or American Staffordshire Terrier so as to be identifiable as partially of the breed American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or American Staffordshire Terrier.”
Owners of potentially dangerous dogs must comply with the following requirements:
o $250 yearly permit fee
o The dog must be kept in a 6-sided enclosure at all times – a house is acceptable
o Anytime the dog is outside of its 6-sided enclosure, they must be leashed AND muzzled at all times, even in your own back yard
o Warning signs must be posted at every entrance to the enclosure (your house) and your yard. The signs must include a picture for those who cannot read.
o Neighbors must be notified that you have a pit bull and given an opportunity to "comment on your confinement plans" for the dog
o Proof of homeowners/renters insurance with $250,000 personal liability coverage
At some point in the past, Pasco added an exemption process for pit bull type dogs which allows dogs that pass the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen test to no longer be considered "potentially dangerous" and they can be licensed and treated just like any other dog. This was a step in the right direction, providing an avenue for owners of well behaved pit bulls to get away from having to follow the onerous requirements that come with the label of potentially dangerous animals. However, the CGC test isn't a one and done thing. Your dog has to pass the CGC test every two years in order to maintain its status as a not dangerous animal.
Additionally, the Canine Good Citizen test is not a foolproof way of ensuring that a dog won't bite somebody. Any dog can bite given the right circumstances and any large dog can cause significant harm. One of the most common items dogs fail on the Canine Good Citizen test is the supervised separation test, where the owner goes out of sight for three minutes and the dog has to remain with the evaluator. According to the AKC website, during this test "the dog does not have to stay in position but should not continually bark, whine, or pace unnecessarily, or show anything stronger than mild agitation or nervousness." Many dogs have issues with separation anxiety and it is generally not correlated with aggression. They may tear up your couch while you're gone, but this particular aspect of the Canine Good Citizen test is the only thing keeping some pit bulls in Pasco from being exempted from the label of a potentially dangerous animal.
Towards the end of last year, a small group of folks from across the Tri-Cities who have a common goal of seeing BSL eliminated in our community submitted a public records request to get the dog bite statistics from Tri-Cities Animal Control for the three cities it serves (Kennewick, Pasco, and Richland). We have five years of data that clearly demonstrate pit bulls in Pasco are not the danger to public safety that the breed specific legislation purports them to be.
Between 2014 and 2018 there were 201 dogs involved in human bite cases in the city of Pasco. Of those 201 dogs, only 18 were pit bulls. There were 28 bites from Retrievers, 23 bites from German Shepherds, as well as 22 bites from herding breeds (American Blue Heeler, Australian Cattle Dog, Australian Shepherds, and Border Collies). The highest rate of dog bites in Pasco goes to Chihuahuas, with 42 bites reported in that five year period. I know they don't cause as much damage as bigger dogs do but the bite rate is still notable. The bite records also show that there were numerous "repeat offenders" - dogs that bit a person on more than one occasion - and only one of those repeat offenders in Pasco was a pit bull.
What’s really interesting, though, is when you compare Pasco’s dog bite statistics to Richland, where there have been no restrictions on owning pit bulls. Between 2014 and 2018, there were only 83 dogs involved in human bite cases in Richland, only 10 of which were pit bulls. So, Richland, which doesn’t have any breed restrictions experienced 59% fewer dog bites than Pasco in the last five years. Even when you account for population differences between the two cities, the rate of dog bites per capita is still significantly lower in Richland than Pasco.
We believe that every dog should be treated as an individual and assumed innocent until proven guilty, NOT the other way around. Having the Canine Good Citizen option for pit bulls still assumes that these dogs are inherently dangerous when the data and the experience from those who work with dogs in our community prove otherwise. The CGC test for pit bulls also does nothing to address the 183 other dogs involved in human bite cases in Pasco in the last five years. This is a perfect example of why Breed Specific Legislation is ineffective because these restrictions on pit bulls provide a false sense of security and create an environment where owners of other breeds of dogs have become lax in their socialization and training because they don't believe they have a "dangerous" dog.
Last year the city of Yakima chose to lift their 31-year ban on pit bulls and instead revised their dangerous dog ordinance, placing greater emphasis on individual dog behavior. They also incentivized spaying and neutering which can reduce or prevent aggressive behavior, especially in male dogs, and helps with the problem of pet overpopulation. Since lifting the pit bull ban, Yakima has had no increases in animal related incidences when comparing year over year and there have been no known increases in other areas of concern such as dogfighting or other inhumane activities.
Out of 281 incorporated cities in the State of Washington, there are now only 25 cities left with breed specific legislation. This is yet another indicator that it's time for Pasco to remove their antiquated restrictions on pit bulls and place responsibility and accountability on EVERY dog owner for the actions of their individual dog.
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