Pierce County Council moves to muzzle vicious animals

It will soon be more difficult — and expensive — to own a vicious animal in Pierce County under changes to the law the County Council unanimously approved yesterday.
After instances of dogs attacking people, pets and livestock last fall, councilmembers asked the auditor to gather public input and suggest ways to increase public safety. The resulting ordinance amends the County Code to define a dangerous or potentially dangerous animal and how it must be kept, increases the fees for keeping such animals, and broadens the penalties for failing to comply with the new regulations.
The ordinance — which now goes to the county executive for his signature — does not prohibit owning any specific animals or dog breeds. It does:
— Increase the registration fee for owning a dangerous animal — one that has severely injured a human or domestic animal without provocation or one whose owner has previously been cited for the animal’s dangerous behavior — to $500 per year, up from $250 one time and $50 per year thereafter. An animal that has killed a human, after applicable appeals are exhausted, would be forfeited to the county to be euthanized.
— Increase the registration fee for owning a potentially dangerous animal — one that has bitten a human or domestic animal, chases a person with apparent intent to attack, or that is known to attack unprovoked — to $250 per year. It is currently $250 one time, then $50 per year.
— Require owners of dangerous animals to have liability insurance worth at least $500,000, up from $250,000. Also required: a site inspection; posted warning sign; current photos for ID; proof of rabies vaccination, spay or neutering and microchipped or tattooed ID; and a brightly colored collar with tags. The animal must be muzzled when outside the owner’s primary residence.
— Make it a gross misdemeanor to bring an animal into Pierce County that another jurisdiction has declared dangerous. The penalty is one year in jail or a $5,000 fine.
— Prohibit “bad apple” owners — with two or more convictions of animal-related crimes — from owning animals for 10 years. The owner would also be guilty of a gross misdemeanor worth a year in jail or up to $5,000 fine.