Seattle broadens dangerous dog ordinance

Seattle broadens dangerous dog ordinance »Play Video
SEATTLE -- An amended city ordinance could make it easier for animal control officers to euthanize or banish dangerous dogs from the city.

The city has had a narrowly-written ordinance, which defined a dangerous animal as one that killed somebody or caused several broken bones or disfiguring cuts.

But many victims had injuries less severe, and in those cases, the city found it difficult to press changes or hold the owners accountable.

Now, one broken bone, a sizable cut or wound, even nerve damage will be enough to banish a dog from the city, or have it put to sleep.

Attorneys who help defend dog attack victims say the tweaking of the law should have an impact.

"If we can remove the dogs that have a history of attacking more than once, even minor injuries that maybe didn't fall under the previous definition, then that's going to help remove those dogs and prevent them from attacking again," said personal injury attorney Chris Davis.

"Depending upon the degree of injury, that will dictate how the city reacts to a particular case," said Don Jordan, director of the Seattle Animal Shelter.

Seattle Animal Control says the revised ordinance gives its officers greater flexibility, but it's not a revamp of the system.

"So it's a technical change, but it's not going to make it any easier for the city to declare an animal dangerous," Jordan said. "We're not going to be looking at a situation where more animals are going to be put down."

The new law says a "severe injury" is also something that includes medical attention -- a wide-open phrase that some attorneys say could see a challenge down the road.

Out of the hundreds of dog bites reported last year in Seattle, only seven animals were declared "dangerous" and either euthanized or sent outside the city.