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What Does Seattle's Dog Bite Ordinance Really Mean?

Updated on: 9/16/2020

Seattle Dangerous Dog OrdinanceDogs that attack innocent people are more likely to be banished or destroyed after the City Council passed an ordinance broadening the definition of a "dangerous animal".

The ordinance passed on June 27, 2011, in response to a hearing examiner's decision earlier this year involving a Madison Park pit bull that attacked and bit three people in less than an hour. Seattle Animal Control declared the pit bull dangerous and ordered it be destroyed. However, the hearing examiner reversed the order on the basis that the pit bull did not inflict enough damage to qualify as a "dangerous animal" under Seattle's narrow law.

Under the former law, a "dangerous animal" was one that inflicted a "severe injury," defined as death, multiple broken bones, or multiple disfiguring lacerations requiring multiple sutures or cosmetic surgery. The victims of last year's pit bull attack, while substantially harmed, did not suffer injuries severe enough to meet that threshold.

The City Council's toughening of the law broadened the definition of "severe injury" to require only one broken bone, or one disfiguring wound that requires medical attention such as sutures or staples. The expanded definition also includes permanent nerve damage.

Insurance Issues Left Unsolved By Seattle's New Dog Bite Ordinance

The problem of insurance however still persists in cases involving dog bites and attacks. Currently, the law only requires a dog owner to carry insurance for injuries the dog may inflict on people if that dog has already been deemed by local authorities as a "dangerous dog." However, more than 99% of all dog bite claims in Washington are committed by dogs that are not designated as dangerous under the current law.

In most cases involving dog bites and animal attacks, the dog owner does not have any insurance to pay for the victim's past and future medical bills and lost wages caused by the attack. In many cases, dog bite victims are left with thousands of dollars in unpaid hospital and doctor bills. In some cases, these medical bills can easily be in the low to high five figure range ($25,000 to $50,000).

Pursuing a dog bite claim against a dog owner who does not have liability insurance is difficult. Any judgment or jury verdict obtained has the potential to be essentially worthless because the dog owner usually is incapable of paying or the owner can avoid the judgment entirely by filing for bankruptcy protection.

Consult With An Attorney After A Dog Bite

Although the City's change to the dangerous dog ordinance should be applauded, there should be a greater effort to hold irresponsible dog owners financially responsible for the injuries their dogs inflict on innocent people.

A qualified dog bite attorney who understands local laws and has experience handling dog bite cases in Seattle would be best suited to represent victims of a serious dog bite or animal attack. Davis Law Group has helped injury victims in Washington since 1994. Call (206) 727-4000 to request a free consultation with our team today. 

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