Reacting to a sequence of canine assaults and issues lately within the Counties, each Stevens County and Spokane County in Washington State (and nationwide) have adopted new rules for coping with probably harmful and cruel canines. Since I’m a citizen of Stevens County, I’ll converse to the brand new Title 20 ordinance adopted in December 2007 by Stevens County.
Stevens County’s new set of harmful canine legal guidelines is designed to place the accountability on the proprietor and never simply the animal. At this date, Stevens County doesn’t have any designated animal management authority apart from the Stevens County Sheriff. Below its new Title 20 ordinance, the Stevens County Sheriff’s Workplace now has extra authority to search out canine is harmful or probably harmful and impose corrective actions to guard the general public. House owners are given additional alternative to enchantment the Stevens County Sheriff’s designation to the courts.
By definition underneath the newly adopted Title 20, a “probably harmful” canine is one which has a recognized propensity, tendency, or disposition to trigger an unprovoked assault or to trigger damage or in any other case threaten the protection of people or home animals. A “harmful canine” has induced unprovoked extreme damage to a human being, or has killed a home animal whereas off the proprietor or keeper’s property, or has beforehand been discovered “probably harmful” and aggressively assaults once more or endangers security. Each the “probably harmful” canine and “harmful canine” designations underneath the Stevens County, Washington Title 20, carry comparable penalties for homeowners and their canine(s). Stevens County has imposed extra restrictive measures underneath the “probably harmful” canine designation than underneath present Washington State regulation.
If a canine is discovered to be “harmful” or “probably harmful”, the proprietor should register the canines inside 14 days of the County Sheriff’s dedication, and the registration will solely be accepted if the proprietor agrees to placement of an figuring out microchip inserted within the animal, cost of the primary registration charge and an annual registration charge, and to maintain the canine enclosed indoors or in a correct enclosure. Correct enclosure is outlined underneath Title 20 as a kennel that incorporates an enclosed prime in addition to sides. If the canine is allowed exterior the enclosure, it should be muzzled and restrained with a 3-foot chain with a 300 lb. tensile power. An proprietor can not promote or switch possession, custody or residence of the canine with out notifying the County Sheriff and notifying the brand new proprietor of the canine’s document with an acknowledgment signed by the brand new proprietor of the phrases and circumstances of his upkeep whereas in Stevens County, Washington. In excessive instances, presumably the County Sheriff because the animal management officer has the authority to determine if the canine should be destroyed. Whereas I can perceive the adoption of Title 20 and its ordinances and the “harmful canine” designation and the aim and benefit behind its adoption, the “probably harmful canine” designation seems to be almost unimaginable to manage and this specific designation is ripe for abuse.
I’m comparatively sure many people have skilled a tough neighbor a time or two. For no matter purpose, sure people appear to have nothing higher to do than complain about their neighbors’ pets, the damaged down car, hobbies, or the rest which will annoy them at any given time. The truth is for some individuals, they appear to make complaining their passion. In rural Stevens County, Washington and different rural areas which are transferring quickly towards improvement, there’ll all the time be conflicts between nation neighbors with differing views on a rural way of life. The Title 20 “probably harmful” canine designation supplies these individuals with only one extra avenue for battle and extra ammunition for harassment. A further hazard for residents is that your entire listening to course of as utilized via the Stevens County Sheriff’s Workplace, underneath each designations, seems to be basically flawed and unconstitutional.
I’ve spoken to a number of residents within the County the place harassment by a nuisance neighbor, via Title 20, seems to have occurred to their detriment. The brand new Stevens County, Washington Title 20 “probably harmful canine” designation appears to make it notably straightforward for a nuisance neighbor to harass one other neighbor. Because the current adoption of Title 20 in December 2007, I’ve found that a number of residents have been struggling to defend towards false and/or frivolous allegations about their companion canines. One citizen discovered herself the goal of a nuisance allegation by an issue neighbor and the Stevens County Sheriff regarding her “probably harmful” canines, after her complaining neighbor’s canine pulled her present canine via her personal fence and killed it. Apparently a grievance was lodged by the nuisance neighbor towards the deceased present canine as a preemptive strike. What number of Stevens County residents have merely forfeited their proper to possession of a companion canine due to nuisance allegations they might not afford to defend and unconstitutional actions being taken by Stevens County public officers? All a nuisance neighbor could now need to do is declare canine barked at them, and the canine’s proprietor could also be hit with a predetermined “probably harmful” canine designation, charges, an embarrassing public listening to and media protection, and different extreme restrictions on their canine by the Stevens County Sheriff.
I suppose the very best a part of the brand new Title 20 ordinance is the enchantment course of since a canine is already predetermined by the Stevens County Sheriff to both be “harmful” or “probably harmful” previous to a listening to. Nonetheless, many poor individuals wouldn’t have the sources to legally struggle again towards an preliminary and probably frivolous dedication by the Stevens County Sheriff upfront of a public listening to. Legal professional charges, at a fee of $200 per hour to defend towards the sort of nuisance motion, could also be within the vary of $2,000 – $40,000+.
There are different potential issues in finishing up the brand new Stevens County Title 20 ordinances. The issues I reference under, in addition to others I’ve not highlighted on this article, have already emerged in different states and Washington State counties — King and Spokane County, Washington, for instance. The courts in King County and Spokane County have lately dominated upon the controversial harmful canine ordinances and procedures. In King County, for instance, within the current harmful canine case of Mansour v. King County tried by animal regulation legal professional Adam Karp, the place Mansour was discovered to have been denied due course of, the Washington State Court docket of Appeals dominated: “Due course of basically requires the chance to be heard at a significant time and in a significant method”. . . “An ample commonplace of proof is a compulsory safeguard.” ” The usual of proof instructs the very fact finder “in regards to the diploma of confidence our society thinks he ought to have within the correctness of the factual conclusions” . . .. Whereas the Stevens County Sheriff continues to take a seat because the investigating official, the decide and jury in these probably harmful and harmful canine instances, how a lot confidence can the general public place in any factual conclusion made by the Sheriff’s Workplace?
In Spokane County in a “probably harmful canine” case, Choose Austin of the Spokane County Superior Court docket dominated that Spokane’s “harmful canine” ordinance is unconstitutional as a result of it denies pet homeowners the proper of due course of, and that as a matter of regulation the executive procedures used within the Metropolis of Spokane concerning “harmful canine” determinations and appeals from these rulings violate residents’ due course of rights. Of their present system, canines tagged as “harmful” by town and its contractor, SpokAnimal, are deemed to be simply that except the proprietor can show in any other case — flying within the face of the notion of presumed innocence. The decide dominated that the Metropolis violated (on this case) Patty Schoendorf’s rights by taking her property — her canines –and meant to destroy them after a listening to the place she was not allowed to cross-examine or impeach witnesses concerned within the canine’s impoundment. She additionally wasn’t given entry to paperwork within the Metropolis’s “harmful canine” file, and the chance to rebut these allegations — one other denial of due course of assured by the Structure. The decide not solely ordered Spokanimal to instantly launch the canines, he additionally ordered the Metropolis of Spokane to pay authorized payments for a group of attorneys – Robert Caruso, Richard Lee and Cheryl Mitchell, animal regulation attorneys.
Whereas I want to say that I belief the Sheriff’s Animal Management Officers to make sure that there’s a actual hazard to the general public, the reality (and therein the issue) is that in Stevens County there may be presently no separation of powers from the onset of the preliminary investigation, the Sheriff’s dedication of “probably harmful canine”, and eventually to the Sheriff’s ruling following a public listening to canine is “probably harmful”. The Stevens County Animal Management Authority (the Stevens County Sheriff’s Workplace) sits because the investigator, decide and jury. The place is our assured system of checks and balances on this course of? The next is usually the process used underneath the Stevens County “probably harmful” canine designation:
(1) When a complainant calls to make a report, he makes it to the Stevens County
Sheriff’s Workplace, the designated animal management authority in Stevens County;
(2) A Stevens County Sheriff’s Officer could also be dispatched to the scene to presumably totally examine the canine incident and take an incident report. An intensive and full investigation could or could not happen, and in reality the canine’s proprietor could not even be allowed to inform their aspect of the story to the Officer or see the grievance, the outcomes of the investigation, and should not even be suggested of the title of the complainant by the Sheriff’s Workplace. The Sheriff’s aim in these instances seems to be to carry again all related paperwork and proof solely from the accused pet proprietor till a day or two earlier than the listening to, stating that the process continues to be within the “investigational stage”– much like a prison continuing. The pet proprietor has no time to arrange a protection;
(3) After the Sheriff takes an incident report from the complainant, the proprietor of the alleged offending canine(s) is then promptly suggested by a Stevens County Sheriff’s Officer that he/she should undergo photographing of his/her canine(s), previous to the canine proprietor receiving any form of a discover or quotation from the Stevens County Animal Management Authority (the Sheriff). Discover of the alleged incident could merely be a Sheriff’s Officer arriving on the doorstep or at your gate, and advising you that he’s required to take pictures of your canines as “a part of the listening to course of”. At this level, chances are you’ll not even have discover of any listening to. The photographing course of could or could not contain a Stevens County Sheriff’s Officer demanding entrance onto your personal property or requesting entrance into your property, for the said function of photographing your canine(s).
Residents, please remember canine is designated as “private property” within the State of Washington and different states. The Washington State Structure and U.S. Structure shield people towards illegal searches and seizures regarding your private property.
The easy act of coming into onto personal property for the aim of taking pictures of private property, with out the direct or implied consent of the property proprietor and with no search warrant, is illegal. Usually talking, warrants are signed by judges or commissioners in prison issues. At this level, this process continues to be thought-about a civil or administrative matter. There seems to be one thing inherently incorrect with this course of from the outset. (The rule that I’ve personally imposed is to not let anybody onto my property with out my categorical invitation (or a warrant). My directive to this impact appears to work for most individuals.)
After all, there are “exigent circumstances” exceptions underneath the regulation to the warrant requirement. Exigent circumstances typically come up when a regulation enforcement officer could have affordable floor to imagine that there’s an instantaneous want to guard his life, the lifetime of others, their property, or that of others, the search is just not motivated by an intent to arrest and seize proof, and there may be some affordable foundation to affiliate an emergency with the realm or place to be searched. None of those exigent circumstances is more likely to exist in a Title 20 harmful or probably harmful canine investigation which might enable a public official to trespass for the aim of photographing canines.
4) The proprietor of the alleged offending canine will then obtain an authorized letter or private service by the Stevens County Sheriff’, notifying the canine’s proprietor that their canine has already been deemed a “probably harmful” canine or “harmful canine” underneath their new Title 20 ordinance. The proprietor’s canine is deemed “responsible” earlier than tried, primarily based typically solely upon a report made by a complainant. That complainant could possibly be made by anybody with “axe to grind”. The canine is asserted responsible upfront of a public listening to earlier than the Stevens County Sheriff’s Division. The investigating company (the Stevens County Sheriff’s Workplace) then amazingly performs the position of the decide and jury at this public listening to the place the canine’s proprietor is required to show that his/her canine is just not harmful, or probably harmful. Please remember that you just (because the accused) are usually not required to show something. The burden of proof falls upon your accusers to make their case, and never you. Public testimony will probably be taken by the Sheriff, and you’ll obtain a subsequent discover of his ultimate ruling. This whole course of usurps constitutional protections afforded every citizen underneath Washington State and U.S. Constitutions. Any listening to in a “probably harmful canine” or “harmful canine” case must be set earlier than an neutral decide or listening to officer. The Sheriff can not rule on points as a matter of regulation.
It’s my understanding and perception that any public listening to carried out by a public official(s) in Washington State should observe the regulation and procedures underneath both the Washington State Open Conferences Act or Administrative Procedures Act. Since a harmful canine listening to does probably not meet the factors underneath the Open Conferences Act, the listening to course of ought to observe the Washington State Administrative Procedures Act. If you’re not acquainted with this Act, familiarize your self with it and your rights underneath this Act. This regulation may be discovered within the public library underneath 34.05 RCW (Revised Code of Washington). Insist that any harmful canine listening to chances are you’ll be a celebration to adjust to these lawful procedures.
Residents, please take heed! The Stevens County Title 20 harmful canine ordinances are harmful to you in that they will probably escalate right into a prison matter if you don’t adjust to the extreme restrictions imposed in your canine, or if the canine is once more the topic of a grievance. You have to contest the letter/discover that you just obtain from the Stevens County, Washington Sheriff’s Workplace and promptly return it through Licensed US Mail or Supply Affirmation. Additionally enclose your individual letter stating you contest your canine’s predetermined designation by the Sheriff, and that you just demand a lawful listening to earlier than a bona fide listening to officer carried out underneath the Washington State Administrative Procedures Act. If you don’t signal and return the Discover from the County Sheriff, the “probably harmful canine” designation is mechanically utilized by the Sheriff to your canine via your inaction.
Upon getting been deemed to personal a “probably harmful” canine or “harmful” canine, all rules, restrictions, charges and different penalties underneath the brand new ordinances apply to you and your canine. The Title 20 rules, restrictions, charges and different penalties have extreme penalties for each you and your canine. If you don’t adjust to these new rules following the ultimate dedication of your “probably harmful canine” or “harmful canine”, you then probably could also be issued a prison quotation. Probably chances are you’ll be thrust into the place of defending your self as a prison. Furthermore, your home-owner’s insurance could also be cancelled or be prohibitively costly sooner or later, and chances are you’ll be pressured to hold an costly bond for those who intend to maintain your canine within the County.
The Title 20 harmful canine ordinances may be harmful to your well being and welfare and your canine’s well being and welfare, notably if you don’t train your constitutional rights. I might extremely suggest hiring an legal professional, for those who can afford one. Rent somebody who makes a speciality of animal regulation, as an illustration one of many attorneys talked about on this article. In the event you can not afford one and are low revenue, name CLEAR at their toll free quantity in Washington State to see for those who can qualify totally free authorized help. Different doable sources of authorized help are the Gonzaga Legislation Faculty, or the Washington State Bar Affiliation who could have a referral to a professional bono (free) legal professional.
Please train your civil and constitutional rights and familiarize yourselves with this new set of legal guidelines underneath Stevens County, Washington – Title 20. Please don’t enable your precious rights to be trampled upon by public officers or chances are you’ll lose them. Don’t enable your self to grow to be their sufferer.
Final however not least, please acknowledge and remember that you just wouldn’t have to permit anybody onto your personal property, normally, with no warrant. It surprises me that many voters have no idea this. If there may be any doubt in your thoughts, please respectfully ask the particular person requesting permission to enter onto your personal property “do you’ve gotten a warrant?” Specific to them that with no signed warrant, that particular person doesn’t have your consent to enter onto your personal property. This rule typically applies to most everybody, public officers included, except they’ve an implied proper to enter equivalent to a meter reader. With respect to your personal property rights, typically talking, what applies to some other personal citizen who needs entrance to your property applies to public officers as effectively. Put up your gates and property with “No Trespassing” and “Watch out for Canine” indicators to guard your self — roughly each 50 toes. Additionally fence your property with at the very least a 5-6 foot fence for those who personal a canine, for extra safety. Electrify your fence, if obligatory, in case you are in a rural space. Fence chargers, together with photo voltaic fence chargers, may be bought for $30 and up and are fairly efficient as a deterrent to entrance and exit by animals.
I acknowledge that this text will not be “politically right” on this local weather as it is a delicate subject proper now. I’m conscious that it might anger those that are actually in danger or who’ve been victims of genuinely harmful canines. I agree that genuinely harmful canines are a menace to public security. Nonetheless, I submit that whereas the intent behind Title 20 and different harmful canine legal guidelines is sweet and I agree with its intent, the method to use and regulate underneath these legal guidelines has been poorly thought out and carried out usually by Stevens County, Washington and different counties round Washington State (and our nation) in making an attempt to guard the general public security. In making an attempt to guard the general public well being and security, particular person constitutional rights, due course of, and privateness can’t be ignored. If you don’t train your rights, you’ll forfeit these precious rights assured to you by the U.S. and Washington State constitutions. You additionally could also be pressured to relinquish your loved one household pet, euthanize it, transfer out of the County, or reside with extreme restrictions on the animal and really costly insurance.