Integrity, n.1 the quality of having strong moral principles; 2 the state of being whole;Concise Oxford English Dictionary, 11th Edition, 2004
Integrity, n. the quality of being honest and fair; the state of being complete or whole; Merriam Webster
I respect the law and I respect the attorneys with whom I have worked and/or done business. What I don’t respect, however, is when ridiculous legal loopholes exist, and those legal loopholes are taken advantage of to the detriment of others.
Here’s my story. I was attacked by two dogs while walking in my neighborhood on May 7, 2014. While the dogs were in active attack mode – barking and chomping at my feet while I concurrently screamed at the dogs to leave me alone – the owner of the dog, whom I could hear but not see on their property, never came out to discover what the ruckus was all about. Then one of the dogs bit me, and shortly thereafter, both dogs retreated back to their property. I yelled to the owner, whom I still couldn’t see, “Your dog just bit me!” To which she replied, “Sorry.”
I chose not to approach the offending dogs’ house to confront the owner because quite frankly, I was afraid the dogs would consider me an even greater threat than when I was on the opposite side of the street from their house. Instead, because I was still able to walk, I hiked the remainder of the way to my house, cleaned my wounds, and headed to a hospital emergency room. After being treated, I returned home and filed an online complaint with my county’s animal control division.
The dog owner hired an attorney to fight the vicious dog charge and the inherent requirement to keep the dog contained at all times when outside. The attorney postponed the appeal hearing three times. The most recent hearing date was to be November 17, 2014. I planned on attending the hearing, even though I had submitted the following to the appeals court: 1) online official complaint with photographs of my injury; 2) my supplemental statement augmenting the county’s complaint form; 3) ER medical records documenting my treatment; 4) a receipt from the hospital where I sought treatment for my portion of the visit, $50.
The legal loophole was created the day after the incident. An animal control officer interviewed me at home and the dog owner at her home. Immediately after the latter, the officer gave the dog owner a 2-page handwritten citation summarizing the incident and detailing the infractions: 1) two unlicensed dogs; 2) two dogs at large; 3)two dogs without up-to-date rabies vaccinations; and 4) having a vicious dog on the premises. Biting a human being = vicious dog. When the investigating officer returned to the county animal shelter, he inputted all applicable information electronically into the shelter’s database. The written citation which was personally handed to the dog owner who signed the citation as proof that she had received it, did not specify which of the dogs bit me; the electronic citation did. That discrepancy voided the credibility of the animal control citation process.
I’m kidding, right?
A settlement was reached between the dog owner’s attorney and the county animal control agency stating that the dog containment order was rescinded and the vicious dog designation was removed. The attorney would agree to all the citation fees – totaling $850 – if animal control would give the dogs/dog owner a clean record in the matter. Animal control agreed. Keep in mind, part of that $850 was a $500 vicious dog citation. The dogs were vicious, there’s no question about that. The fact that the attorney agreed to let his clients pay all the fees speaks to that, as well as the fact that the dogs’ behavior satisfied the legal requirement to meet the definition of vicious.
The owners were penalized, why should I still care?
Because the only penalty they received was monetary. My neighbors and I did not benefit at all from the dissolution of the matter. The vicious dogs are not required to be contained on their property and there will be no vicious dog record of this incident should they ever get cited again. If the vicious dog designation had been honored, the repeat offender fee would jump to $1,000 just for the vicious dog designation.
This doggie-style loophole is a pain in the rear.
If you are a responsible dog owner who maintains control of your animal and does not allow it to leave your property without being under the control of a leash, you don’t need to read any further.
If your dog or dogs routinely leave your property and have access to any person walking near your property, then please pay attention to what I have to say.
I was bitten by a dog yesterday.
I live in rural Redmond, Washington, a beautiful area providing many scenic areas for residential walks. Many dogs live in my rural neighborhood, and some of their owners have given these dogs carte blanche to freely run around the neighborhood – a neighborhood that has many children I might add. But I digress. Said carte-blanche-provided dogs don’t feel compelled to limit their pooping activity to their owner’s property, therefore when they roam the streets of my neighborhood and feel the urge to purge they do so and because they don’t have opposable thumbs they do not clean up their poop. Disgusting for those of us who enjoy walking through the neighborhood. But again, I digress.
These same dogs whose owners disobey the local leash law have full access to any child, adult or older adult person they come across. Now to the point of my story. I am a prolific walker and there is no street in my rural neighborhood that I have not traveled. Yesterday afternoon I was minding my own business, enjoying a break in the rainy weather by taking a walk, when I turned onto 272nd Avenue NE, Redmond, WA 98053, when half-way down the block my walk was interrupted by two white-haired maltese-like dogs running out of their human’s property directly into my path. My normal modis operandi in these instances is to tell the dog “No! No!” or words to that effect, and casually continue on my way.
Not this time. These two dogs stayed at my heels, not letting me proceed on my own, bearing their teeth, barking like there was no tomorrow, and in a progressive show of defiance, one of them jumped up and bit me on the back of my left calf. Okay, now I’m mad. I’m screaming at these dogs to get away so I can leave the area, and they’re not buying it. Where’s their human? I guess the human was yelling for her dogs, although I couldn’t hear her over their barking, because one of them ran back onto the human’s property, leaving the other dog to continue on its terroristic rant at my expense. (Perhaps said dog has “small dog syndrome”?) Anyway, I was going to use my pepper spray on the remaining mutt but it was acting so vicious, I feared I would only aggravate the situation.
I finally heard a female human’s voice calling the remaining hairy terrorist, and that dog ran back onto the owner’s property. At this point I am approximately 25 feet way from the gravel driveway and did not see the human, nor did I want to exchange conversational pleasantries. I feared that if I walked back to the foot of the driveway to confront the human, her maltese-like dogs would consider me a threat and demand a pound of flesh from me. Instead I yelled, “Your dog bit me!” to which she replied, “Sorry.” She did not walk off her property to the street to see if I was okay. I walked slowly away, looking back to see if she would do so, and she did not.
The balance of my day: at the advice of my doctor’s office when I called to tell them about my dog bite – 3 puncture wounds on my calf, drawing blood – I drove to the nearest hospital emergency room to receive any treatment the ER physician deemed necessary. Fortunately no stitches were required and because there have been no confirmed rabies cases reported in King County – the county in which I live – in the past 30 years, there was no need for preventative rabies treatment. The physician did prescribe an antibiotic, however, should the dog bite become infected.
Come on people! Be responsible dog owners!
You owe it to the general public, and you owe it to your animals, to be responsible. To their animals you ask? Of course, because a complaint such as I filed with Animal Control, including photos of the injured leg, will initiate an investigation that might result in your dog or dogs to be removed from your house.
Bottom line: If you love Fluffy, you must protect Fluffy and all with whom he may come in contact.