As of Jan. 1, cities and towns in Washington that ban entire breeds of dogs or define them as potentially dangerous must create a “reasonable” process for exempting a well-behaved pooch.

Bans tend to focus on dogs believed, for whatever reason, to be more prone to aggressive behaviors, such as pit bulls and Rottweilers, and can range from onerous restrictions on ownership within city limits to an outright ban.

With the start of the new year, owners will be able to avoid such restrictions if their dog can pass the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen test or “a reasonably equivalent” behavior test, proving the dog is, in fact, a good boy or girl.

Though the new law will make ownership easier for those with restricted breeds, the underlying breed bans themselves should end, said Kelsie Einspahr, shelter manager with Grant County Animal Outreach. Einspahr called the bans ineffective, confusing and damaging to the animals involved.

“It keeps people from socializing their pits, and it increases public stigma that’s already not based in fact,” Einspahr said.

Moses Lake had adopted a similar ban breed several years ago, Einspahr said, but quickly removed the language from municipal code because of confusion, lack of enforcement and ineffectiveness.

Advertising

It’s not just volunteers at the local shelter who think that breed bans are a bad idea. Quincy Police Chief Kieth Siebert, who owns a bull terrier mix named Brutus, said that the city has been looking to remove its breed ban.

Breed bans are unfair and raise the risk of a challenge in court, Siebert said.

“Part of the problem is that it’s hard to single out a breed as a dangerous dog,” Siebert said. “That’s not right. It should be on an individual basis.”

As for Brutus, Siebert said with a chuckle that the dog, adopted from the pound, was not dangerous. Nor were most pit bulls he had run across in his career, he added — the only dog ever to have bitten him was a Pomeranian.