But if a pit bull kills you in Washington state, you can now have your remains composted
OLYMPIA, Washington––Between issuing campaign statements as one of 21 contenders for the 2020 Democratic nomination to run for U.S. president, and signing a bill allowing Washingtonians to have their remains composted, Washington governor Jay Inslee on May 1, 2019 authorized into law HB 1026, overturning restrictions now in effect in 27 Washington cities on possession of pit bulls, and sometimes other dangerous dog breeds too.
83-year-old woman lost ears to pit mixes even as Inslee signed the bill
Even as Inslee scribbled, in Tacoma, just 30 miles north of the Washington state capitol in Olympia, “An 83-year-old woman experienced permanent disfigurement after being attacked by two pit bull mixes,” KIRO 7 television news reported.
Added Fox News Q13, “The woman, who asked not to be identified, has severe injuries to her face, neck and head. Her daughter told Q13 she has more than 20 staples in her head––and both of her ears will have to be reconstructed. The woman said her neighbor’s grandson owns two pit bulls. The dogs escaped from a backyard and attacked her while she was walking.”
Makes AKC “Canine Good Citizen” test the standard
In many ways a contradiction in terms, HB 1026 opens with a lengthy preamble which “recognizes that local jurisdictions have a valid public safety interest in protecting citizens from dog attacks,” but declares that “a dog’s breed is not inherently indicative of whether or not a dog is dangerous.”
HB 1026 then makes the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Test the standard for assessing dog behavior in Washington state, apparently oblivious to the reality that the AKC itself exists in recognition of breed-specific differences in both dog behavior and dog appearance.
But other tests are allowed
States HB 1026, “A city or county may not prohibit the possession of a dog based upon its breed, impose requirements specific to possession of a dog based upon its breed, or declare a dog dangerous or potentially dangerous based on its breed unless all of the following conditions are met:
“(a) The city or county has established and maintains a reasonable process for exempting any dog from breed-based regulations or a breed ban if the dog passes the American Kennel Club canine good citizen test or a reasonably equivalent canine behavioral test as determined by the city or county;
“(b) Dogs that pass the American Kennel Club canine good citizen test or a reasonably equivalent canine behavioral test are exempt from breed-based regulations for a period of at least two years;
“(c) Dogs that pass the American Kennel Club canine good citizen test or a reasonably equivalent canine behavioral test are given the opportunity to retest to maintain their exemption from breed-based regulations; and
No dog flunks
“(d) Dogs that fail the American kennel club canine good citizen test or a reasonably equivalent canine behavioral test are given the opportunity to retest within a reasonable period of time, as determined by the city or county.”
The devil is in the details. What is “a reasonably equivalent canine behavioral test as determined by the city or county” leaves the door open to cities and counties accepting, as a matter of convenience, tests such as the so-called SAFER test promoted by the American SPCA.
Animal behaviorist Emily Weiss developed and introduced the SAFER test in 1999-2000, amid complaints by pit bull advocates that too many pit bulls were failing older behavioral screening tests developed by Sue Sternberg of Rondout Kennels and others.
(See Did ASPCA discover certifying SAFER dog screening might be dangerous?)
39 people killed by 65 dogs who passed “equivalent” tests
Thirty-nine people are known to have been killed by 65 adopted dogs who had passed SAFER and/or other “equivalent” safety tests since 2010.
Among the 65 purportedly “safe” dogs who were rehomed, but went on to kill someone, were 43 pit bulls, four dogs in the Presa Canario/bull mastiff category, four Rottweilers, three “English bull dogs,” who may have been the “Olde English bulldog” pit bull variant rather than the brachiocephalic dog usually thought of as an “English bull dog”; two German shepherds; two wolf hybrids; and one each of Akita, Boerboel, boxer, Doberman, golden retriever, husky, and unknown mix of breeds.
Sponsor had pit bull, now has Rottweiler
“Poulsbo representative Sherry Appleton,” at 76 among the oldest members of the Washington state legislature, “fought three years to pass HB 1026,” noted KIRO television news reporter Essex Porter.
“Appleton owned a pit bull for years. She now has a Rottweiler,” Porter mentioned.
This was four days after a Rottweiler owned by a family friend killed 1-year-old Kyna Marie Pamela Deshane, of Ely, Nevada, and one day before a family pit bull killed 2-year-old Isaiah Geiling, of Louisville, Kentucky, several weeks after previously injuring Geiling’s ear.
“People love these dogs,” Appleton told Porter. “There wouldn’t be so many mixes of pitties and other dogs, 22 million, if they were a problem,” Porter insisted.
Bad math & low sterilization rate
In actuality there are currently about 4.4 million pit bulls and pit mixes in the U.S., according to the 2018 ANIMALS 24-7 survey of 11.5 million classified ads offering dogs for sale and 3.7 million classified ads offering dogs for adoption.
(See 2018 dog breed survey: at least 41% of U.S. pit bull population are seeking homes.)
And pits and pit mixes are as plentiful as they are––with about one in five in an animal shelter at any given time––primarily because the pit bull sterilization rate, at barely 20%, is markedly below the 70%-plus sterilization rate for all other dog breeds combined.
Inverse moral logic
Continued Porter, “Asked why she didn’t favor leaving [dog breed regulation] up to localities as in the past, [Appleton] responded, ‘Because it discriminates against families. If you go to move into a city, the 27 of them that ban pit bulls or pit bull mixes or dogs that look like pit bulls, then you are discriminating against the family because the family would like to move into your city.’”
Failing to recognize the right of others to be safe from pit bulls and other dangerous dogs before they attack, Appleton displayed inverse moral logic comparable to the arguments she long has made in attempting to decriminalize possession of small amounts of addictive and otherwise dangerous drugs purportedly obtained for personal use.
This would allow dealers who succeed in disposing of large amounts just before being arrested to walk without charges.
Misrepresented 95 years of U.S. Supreme Court decisions
Earlier, testifying before the Washington House Judiciary in 2015 in support of her first bill to ban breed-specific legislation, Appleton misrepresented 95 years of relevant jurisprudence from the Supreme Court of the United States so completely as to invert the entire meaning of it.
Asserting that pit bulls are “gentle, loyal, and great with kids,” Appleton argued that “In 1920, the Supreme Court of the United States found that it was unconstitutional to have breed-specific ordinances and that cite was Nicchia v. People of the state of New York 254 US 228 (1920).”
In truth, Nicchia v. New York agreed with the 1897 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Sentell v. New Orleans & Carrollton R. Co., which affirmed that government officials may shoot and kill loose dogs who pose a danger to the community.
U.S. Supreme Court upheld Ohio pit bull law, but legislators undid it anyway
On February 19, 2008 the U.S. Supreme Court again upheld the constitutionality of breed-specific dog regulation, without revisiting past jurisprudence, by refusing to hear an appeal of Toledo vs. Tellings, a challenge to the former Toledo ordinance limiting possession of pit bull terriers to one per person, and requiring that pit bulls be muzzled when off their home property.
The Toledo ordinance was repealed in October 2010 after a long campaign led by Toledo Blade publisher and pit bull owner John Robinson Block.
Block campaigned on, along with Montgomery County dog warden Mark Kumpf, the Best Friends Animal Society, and the New York-based pro-pit bull Animal Farm Foundation, until in May 2012 the Ohio legislature prohibited any breed-specific dog safety legislation.
“Pit bulls have a new best friend in Ohio”
“Pit bulls have a new best friend in Ohio: lawmakers. Elsewhere, some officials are on the other side of the fence,” reported Rene Lynch of the Los Angeles Times. “A new Ohio law protects pit bulls from being labeled as ‘vicious’ dogs simply because they’re pit bulls. From now on, dogs in Ohio can be labeled ‘vicious’ only if they do something to warrant it,” meaning actually injure or kill someone.
“The law change comes,” Lynch noted, “just days after the fatal mauling of a 3-day-old child who was momentarily left alone with the family’s pit bull-mix in their Beaverdam, Ohio, home.”
The pit mix killed Makayla Darnell in her swing in the family living room while her parents were nearby in the kitchen, said coroner’s investigator Steve Kahle.
New Ohio Supreme Court case
Almost a decade and at least 10 more human fatalities inflicted by pit bulls later, the Ohio Supreme Court is expected to soon hear arguments as to whether a pit bull can even be designated “dangerous” under the 2012 legislation before the pit bull harms someone.
Currently, dogs in Ohio in effect get one “free bite” before being deemed dangerous, and may not be deemed dangerous even then.
But the Cincinnati City Solicitor’s Office is challenging that interpretation.
“In May 2016, Prince Bane the pit bull was accused of biting a woman’s hand,” explained Cincinnati Enquirer reporter Max Londberg. “Prince Bane’s owner, Joseph Jones, was found guilty of failing to confine a dangerous dog, based on evidence that Prince had bitten before, according to documents filed with the Ohio Supreme Court.
Reversed conviction means no help for victim
“But the First District Court of Appeals rejected the conviction because Prince had never formally been designated as ‘dangerous’ in a court setting.”
The Cincinnati City Solicitor’s Office contends that the wording of the Ohio statute “does not require a previous designation of ‘dangerous’ to charge a dog owner with failing to confine a dangerous dog,” wrote Londberg.
“At stake is whether the woman whose hand was bitten will receive restitution,” Londberg finished. “Jones’s initial conviction is a fourth-degree misdemeanor. But if he wins his appeal, it will be lowered to a minor misdemeanor,” which “doesn’t allow for paying recompense to the victim, according to court documents.”
Allegedly unforeseen consequences of the repeal of all breed-specific legislation in Ohio included proliferation of breeds generally recognized as dangerous, if not necessarily by law, along often lackadaisical response to dangerous dog complaints by law enforcement if no one was actually injured.
Under Mark Kumpf, Montgomery County dog warden from 2006 through 2018, the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center in particular developed a reputation for slow and inadequate response to complaints about dangerous dogs.
Four people died from dog attacks in Montgomery County during the Kumpf years, three of them involving dogs who had been the subjects of repeated prior complaints.
Klonda Richey, Jonathan Quarles Jr. & Maurice Brown
Klonda Richey, 57, was killed by in February 2014 her neighbors’ two dogs, variously identified in court documents as “large-breed pit bulls, mastiffs, or cane corsos.”
A pending lawsuit against Kumpf and Montgomery County charges that Richey “made approximately 13 calls to the Montgomery County Regional Dispatch Center and at least 11 calls to the Animal Resource Center” seeking protection from the dogs who killed her in the months before her death,” summarized Dayton Daily News staff writer Chris Stewart.
Jonathan Quarles Jr., just seven months old, was killed in July 2014 by a pit bull who had previously attacked a mail carrier and another dog, in separate incidents. The pit bull owner, Kimiko Hardy, had recently completed a two-and-a-half-hour course on responsible dog ownership taught by Mark Kumpf. Convicted of six related charges, Hardy was in June 2016 sentenced to serve three years in prison.
Maurice Brown, 60, was killed in April 2017 by a pit bull from an address where pit bulls had been the subject of repeated complaints since 2011, including in one instance after a nine-year-old girl was mauled.
(See Kumpf out, but new bill won’t undo harm he did to Ohio dog law.)
More dogs means no cats accepted
Post-Kumpf, “Because of an influx of dogs, the resource center has limited cat space,” reported Ethan Fitzgerald of WDTN television in Dayton, Ohio, on April 30, 2019.
Therefore, Fitzgerald reported, “The Montgomery County Animal Resource Center will no longer handle cats effective immediately. Now the community lacks a quick place to drop cats off.”
The Humane Society of Greater Dayton and the Society for the Improvement of Conditions for Stray Animals, in Kettering, accept some cats, but only by appointment and charge surrender fees of $30-$75 per cat.
In addition, the Society for the Improvement of Conditions for Stray Animals web site indicates that it rarely accepts cats of more than 12 weeks of age and cats who have lived outdoors.
How did this get through the WA State leg. without it being published? We should all have been writing/phoning our reps BEFORE it got to Inslee’s desk.
Elizabeth Clifton says
As Washington residents we contacted every member of the legislature at least three times and the governor, but after being defeated twice previously the Appleton bill passed by three votes in 2019.
(Merritt and Beth)
I have some real concerns about accepting the Canine Good Citizen test or an equivalency test. Most young puppies of all breeds should be able to pass a SAFER test. Many dogs with some training will be able to pass a CGC test by 6-8 months of age depending on the amount of effort expended by the trainer.
Is it safe to believe that a pit bull that passes a SAFER test as a young puppy or a CGC at 6-8 months will still be a safe animal when mental maturity kicks in after one year of age? I don’t think so.
If the dogs were tested under one year, I believe they should be retested at two years of age or older. There should be absolutely no objection to this since pit bull owners and owners of other breeds of dogs often consider their dogs safe when they are not safe.
Who’s going to do the testing and where will it be done? How will it be scored?