Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Washington's Marauding Dog Law Remains In Effect Another Year

Article By Hilary Bramwell Mohr

Most dog owners are probably unaware that
Washington currently has a law on the books that requires
the owner of a dog found guilty of killing any
domestic animal to kill the dog within 48 hours of being
notified of the determination of guilt. RCW
16.08.030. An owner who fails to kill his or her dog in
compliance with the statute is deemed guilty of committing
a misdemeanor. Id. The same statute requires
the sheriff or deputy sheriff to kill any dog found running
at large between August and March without metal
a metal identification tag. Id. The statue, entitled
“Marauding Dog—Duty to Kill,” was enacted in 1917
and last codified in 1929 as part of an eleven-section
act addressing licensure of dogs and taxation of their
owners. Laws of 1929, ch. 198, §§ 1-11. Of that 1929
act, only two sections of the eleven remain law in
Washington. RCW §§ 16.08.020 and .030; Laws of
1929, ch. 198, §§ 6-7.
In this past legislative session, Senator Brandland
introduced Senate Bill 5200, which would have
deleted the portion of the statute requiring the sheriff
to kill dogs running at large. Senator Hargrove subsequently
introduced Senate Bill 5870, which would delete
the remainder of the statute. Senate Bill 5870 did
not make it out of the Senate Committee. At the second
reading of Senate Bill 5200 in the Rules Committee,
Senator Hargrove proposed amending SB
5200 to repeal RCW 16.08.030 in its entirety.
That amendment was adopted. In the House, however,
the House Committee on Judiciary inserted the original
statutory language mandating that an owner kill his or
her dog within 48 hours of being notified of the fact
that the dog killed a domesticated animal. The Senate
subsequently insisted that the House approve a full
repeal of RCW 16.08.030, but the House refused, insisting
instead that the Senate accept its amendment reinserting
the language requiring owners to kill their
dogs within 48 hours. As a result of this back-andforth,
no part of SB 5200 was passed, and RCW
16.08.030 remains on the books in its entirety.
The legislature has missed its opportunity to repeal
the law this legislative session, but should take the
matter up again next year. The legislature should repeal
all of RCW 16.08.030, not just the portion requiring
sheriffs to kill dogs running at large. That portion
of the law should be repealed because it is not followed,
not enforced, conflicts with numerous other
laws, and enforcing that portion of the law would be
repugnant to modern sensibilities. Today, most Washingtonians
would no longer find it acceptable for officials
to kill a dog running at large for the sole reason
that the dog was not identified by a metal tag. Detailed
laws have been adopted at the state and local
levels of government to manage not only licensure for
dogs, but the capture, recovery, or adoption of unidentified
stray dogs. See, e.g., Chapter 16.10 RCW (dog
licensing); Seattle Municipal Code 9.25.030 (authority
of Animal Control to detain unidentified or at-large
animals). A law requiring officials to kill, without further
inquiry, an unidentified animal now stands alone,
inconsistent with an extensive body of newer and more
humane regulations.
The portion of RCW 16.08.030 requiring a person
who owns a dog found guilty of killing any domestic
animal to kill the dog within 48 hours of being
notified of the finding of guilt should also be repealed.
That requirement is in apparent conflict with other,
more recently enacted statutes, and presents potentially
significant constitutional concerns beyond the
scope of this article.
For example, RCW 16.08.070(a) defines the
term “dangerous dog” to include dogs that kill domesticated
animals or that bite humans, among other
things. There are several statutes prescribing how to
deal with dangerous dogs. Owners of dangerous dogs
are required to register the dogs and meet certain insurance
and restraint requirements, but they are not
required to kill their dogs upon being deemed dangerous,
even if the dogs were deemed dangerous for biting
humans. RCW §§ 16.08.080–100. Inexplicably, a
dog that kills a domesticated animal is treated differently
and must be killed under RCW 16.08.030,
wholly outside the scheme provided for handling dangerous
dogs under RCW §§ 16.08.080–100.
The primary incongruity between RCW
16.08.030 and the dangerous-dog statutes are the latter’s
appeal provisions. Owners of “dangerous dogs”
may appeal the dangerous-dog determination within
twenty days as provided in RCW 16.08.080(4) or pursuant
to the administrative appeal procedure of the
local jurisdiction, if any. The owner of a dog that was
deemed a “dangerous dog” for killing a domestic animal
could therefore be placed in the unfair position of
being required to kill his or her dog within 48 hours,
even though the dog may later be exonerated on appeal.
If an owner must comply with RCW 16.08.030,
the dog will already be dead when exonerated. In addition,
any owner who, while awaiting appeal of the
dangerous dog determination, elects not to kill his or
her dog in accordance with RCW 16.08.030 “shall be
deemed guilty of a misdemeanor.” By exercising his
or her statutory right to appeal, the owner is deemed to
have committed a crime.
Requiring an owner to kill a dog that has killed a
domesticated animal within 48 hours is wholly inconsistent
with the subsequently enacted statutes providing
a detailed scheme for managing dangerous dogs
and appealing dangerous-dog determinations. Requiring
a sheriff or deputy sheriff to kill untagged dogs
running at large is also inconsistent with other state
statutes and local codes. The law should be repealed.