Dangerous dog case comes before county

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Why would the resolution for a dangerous dog case need to come before the Jefferson County Board of Commissioners?

Although the case came before the board Nov. 6, it began this summer, when Galen Brake’s dog, Djin, reportedly bit both another dog and a person at the Port Ludlow Marina July 9.

According to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) report, Djin, a one-and-a-half-year-old spayed female pit bull terrier, was unleashed when she attacked a leashed 7-pound Italian greyhound named Luca, mauling the other dog’s hindquarters until Brake pulled Djin’s jaws off Luca.

Luca’s owner, Michael McGouran, reported being bitten on the fingers, and believed his wife, Sharon, received an injury to the face.

JCSO Officer Adam Newman wrote in his statement that Brake informed him that he’d adopted Djin from the Humane Society in Bremerton several months before, and that she was current on all her shots, having been to a veterinarian in Port Hadlock.

Although Brake told Newman he “always keeps [Djin] on leash and doesn’t completely trust her around other animals,” Brake unleashed Djin “to allow her to jump from the dock into his boat.”

Jefferson County Civil Prosecutor Philip Hunsucker explained that statutes regulating “dangerous dogs” typically treat them with civil penalties, similar to traffic citations, rather than criminal ones.

“In this case, the settlement amount paid by Brake covered the penalty plus the court costs,” Hunsucker said. “If someone with a dangerous dog messes up again, they can then be charged with a crime. On the other hand, they can also appeal the civil infraction, like a traffic ticket, first to the sheriff’s level, then to the district court.”

CONSTITUTIONALITY

Brake’s lawyer, Adam Karp, had challenged the constitutionality of the county’s dangerous dog ordinance, noting that the state defines a “dangerous dog” as one that “kills a domestic animal off owner property,” while the county expanded that definition to include a dog that caused “severe injury” or engaged in “multiple bites.”

Regardless, Brake not only made restitution to the McGourans for “all currently known injuries caused by Djin,” but also reached a settlement through negotiation with the county, which included the payment of a $234 penalty and the $319 purchase of a dangerous dog declaration.

“If you want to keep a dog under these sorts of circumstances, and avoid having them destroyed, there are a number of options,” Hunsucker said. “Mr. Brake agreed to comply with all the requirements to declare Djin a potentially dangerous dog. If his dog engages in this behavior again, it will be declared a dangerous dog.”

Among the restrictive measures Brake put in place were to build a fence and post a warning sign, to contain the dog and alert passersby. Brake also agreed to keep Djin on a leash whenever the dog is outside the fence.

“It’s pretty much everything we would have gotten from a dangerous dog declaration anyway,” Hunsucker said. “Normally, when one dog attacks another dog, the owner would pay a fine and restitution to the other pet owners through the district court system, but because a settlement agreement was signed, it has to come to the county commissioners for approval, under state and county law.”

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