YAKIMA, Washington––Yakima Animal Control and the Humane Society of Central Washington on May 14, 2014 re-impounded an alleged “service pit bull” who had mistakenly been returned to owner Kali Katzenberg after completing a 10-day quarantine, but before a hearing scheduled to determine whether the pit bull is legally a dangerous dog.
The alleged “service pit bull” on May 1, 2014 rushed out of his home to attack a dog who was being walked on another street. Three people were reportedly bitten by the alleged “service pit bull” while trying to rescue the dog who was attacked. The person who was walking the dog who was attacked suffered a broken arm.
Noted Yakima Herald reporter Donald W. Meyers, “The incident came just two weeks after the city council approved an exemption for service and therapy dogs under a city ordinance that otherwise bans pit bulls.” Yakima code enforcement officer Joe Caruso told Meyers that the application to keep the pit bull as a “service dog” was filed by a man named Scott Lusby.
“According to the form,” Meyers wrote, “the dog provided emotional support, calmed the disabled owner, channeled negative emotions away, and provided a sense of security.
“Under the Americans With Disabilities Act, the city is only allowed to ask if the dog has been trained as a service animal, and what kind of service it performs,” Meyers continued. Caruso said the city is not allowed to ask for documentation showing the dog’s training or proof that the person registering a service animal is actually disabled.”
But the definitions in the Americans With Disabilities Act could have allowed Yakima to refuse the application. According to the Americans With Disabilities Act, “Service animal means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability…The crime deterrent effects of an animal’s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks for the purposes of this definition.”
A Yakima ordinance has since 1987 stipulated that “It is unlawful to keep, or harbor, own or in any way possess a pit bull dog within the city of Yakima. Violation of this section is a gross misdemeanor.”
Passed after three separate serious pit bull attacks earlier in 1987, the ordinance defines “pit bull” as “any American pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American bulldog 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, American bulldog or American Staffordshire terrier so as to be identifiable as partially of the breed American pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American bulldog or American Staffordshire terrier.”
The Yakima city council in December 2013 voted 6-1 to keep the ordinance, but amended it in April 2014 to exempt “service” or “therapy” dogs to avoid potential conflict with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The Yakima “service pit bull” attack was preceded by many others around the U.S. Most notoriously, in 2010 a man in Fort Worth, Texas, named Steven Woods, claimed to be a disabled veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom. His three pit bulls were cited nine times in April 2010 for running at large.
“Later that month in the same neighborhood, police encountered two pit bulls acting aggressively,” recounted John Henry of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “The officers had to use pepper spray to defend themselves. The two dogs, police said, retreated, jumping a fence that they said bordered Woods’ back yard.”
Woods was cited again. Then, Henry continued, “In June 2010 a 64-year-old woman was attacked by four pit bulls, including one that bit her repeatedly. The woman, who was seriously injured, said that Woods came outside and kicked one of the dogs to stop the attack.”
In July 2010 one of Woods’ pit bulls, named Mimi, attacked an injured an 84-year-old man.
Attorney Randy Turner defended Woods pro bono. Pit bull advocates raised $18,000 to help Woods.
But Chris Hayes of WFAA/Channel 8 in December 2010 discovered from U.S. Army records that Woods had actually served in the Arkansas National Guard, and according to Veterans’ Affairs had never been deployed overseas.
That was not the end of Woods’ story. Mimi and another of Woods’ pit bulls in July 2011 attacked Gary Latimer, 24, his pregnant wife Alisa, and their six-month-old son on a Fort Worth street.
(See also “How many other animals did pit bulls kill last year?”, http://wp.me/p4pKmM-bS.)