Attack again forestalled Yakima city repeal attempt
YAKIMA, Washington––The Yakima County town of Tieton, population 1,200, on April 9, 2018 celebrated Dog Bite Prevention Week by reinstating a pit bull ban, at request of police chief Jeff Ketchum, after a five-year experiment with allowing pit bulls, subject to strict conditions.
“After the ban was lifted,” reported Donald W. Meyers for the Yakima Herald Republic, “people wanting to have a pit bull within Tieton had to keep the dog in a five-sided enclosure secured to a concrete base, and post signs to warn people that a dog was on the premises.”
Even those requirements, however, adopted in 2013, were found to be insufficient to protect public safety, Ketchum indicated to the Tieton city council.
Yakima city ban upheld for 4th time in 5 years
Earlier, anticipating Dog Bite Prevention Week, the city of Yakima for the fourth time in five years upheld a ban on possession of “any American pit bull terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American bulldog or American Staffordshire terrier breed,” or mongrel mix displaying visible pit bull traits.
The pit bull ban was adopted in July 1987 after a pit bull mauled two women, Gloria Echeverria and Joanne Sanchez, but was not impounded by Yakima animal control.
Later in the day, according to Seattle Times coverage, the pit bulls “ran out from an alley, knocked Mark Felker to the ground, chewed off part of his left ear, and bit him on both arms.”
All three victims sued the city of Yakima and are believed to have accepted settlements in the vicinity of $25,000 each.
Ban upheld by Washington Supreme Court
The American Dog Owners Association and Yakima residents David Carvo and Mark and Bonnie Johnson filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Yakima pit bull ban, but the Washington state supreme court on August 24, 1989 unanimously upheld the ban.
Another organization, Responsible Dog Owners, in September 1990 claimed to have orchestrated the upset defeat of then-Washington state supreme court justice Keith Callow, in an election with only 20% voter turnout, but both the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Los Angeles Times rejected the Responsible Dog Owners contention after separate investigations.
Undaunted, three other Yakima County communities––Selah, Moxee and Wapato––subsequently adopted and have repeatedly upheld pit bull bans. A fourth Yakima County community, Prosser, passed a pit bull ban but then repealed it in 2005.
Pit bull advocates seek state legislation
Attempts to pass state legislation repealing pit bull bans throughout Washington, and preventing the passage of more, began in 1991. State bills to prohibit breed-specific legislation have been introduced in almost every legislative session since, but so far have always been defeated in committee.
Pit bulls, meanwhile, are still allowed in the rest of Yakima county. This has had consequences.
75-year-old in wheelchair & his dog killed by pit bulls
On October 20, 1995, for example, a Yakima County animal control officer responded four hours after receiving a call about pit bulls running at large, menacing pedestrians, by returning both pit bulls to their owner.
Two hours later the pit bulls escaped again and broke through a fence to attack a smaller dog belonging to wheelchair-bound Walter Feser, 75, who had been playing with the smaller dog in his back yard, just outside the Yakima city limits.
The smaller dog ran back to Feser, who called for help, but both Feser and the smaller dog were killed, while neighbor Herman Miller was injured in attempting a rescue.
The pit bulls’ owner was not prosecuted.
After 11 years of litigation alleging negligence, Yakima County settled the case by paying $10,000 to Feser’s family and $7,000 to Miller.
More maulings & another death
Talk of rescinding the Yakima and Wapato pit bull bans stalled––for a time––in 2004 after five pit bulls mauled a 15-year-old Yakima boy in one incident, and several others nearly tore the arms off a four-year-old boy just outside the Wapato city limits.
Another pit bull attack on a Yakima child, in 2007, stalled ban repeal efforts again, as did the 2010 fatal mauling of Darla Napora, 32, in Pacifica, California.
Napora, originally from Yakima, had been a well-known local high school athlete. A volunteer for the pit bull advocacy organization BADRAP, according to her obituary, she was six months pregnant when killed by one of her own two pit bulls.
Pit bull advocates had again mobilized to try to repeal the Yakima pit bull ban in August 2013, but were again thwarted after three pit bulls ran amok, injuring a police officer and later severing mauling Eddie Gefroh, 48, as he walked his border collie near the scene, unaware of the previous incident.
Pit bull “service dogs” run amok
On April 16, 2014, however, the Yakima City Council amended the pit bull ban to allow pit bulls as service dogs.
On May 1, 2014, just two weeks later, an alleged pit bull service dog 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.
That pit bull “service dog” was eventually euthanized.
A second so-called pit bull “service dog” killed a cat within the same time frame and was excluded from the city.
Attack on eve of council meeting
The most recent attempt to repeal the Yakima city pit bull ban was pending before the city council when on March 19, 2018 a pit bull broke through a fence to attack another pit bull in a neighboring yard. The owners of the two pit bulls tried to separate them. One of the two owners was injured badly enough to require hospital treatment.
One of the two pit bulls attacked a Yakima police officer and was shot twice by the officer, but survived. The other escaped and remained at large for some time.
The Yakima city council reaffirmed the now 31-year-old pit bull ban on March 20, 2018.
“Maintaining ban wise; expanding it smarter”
“While the law remains in place, the council isn’t done with the issue,” editorially noted Bob Crider and Frank Purdy of the Yakima Herald-Republic. “It directed city staff and the council’s Public Safety Committee to develop a more comprehensive dangerous dogs ordinance.”
Concluded Crider and Purdy, “Maintaining the pit bull ban [would be] wise; expanding the dangerous dog ordinance even smarter.”