After a man in a wheel chair was attacked and killed by a pit bull in the 1980s, the breed was officially banned from within the city limits of Yakima, ever since. Across the nation, pit bulls are often considered dangerous breeds, even contributing a decent amount to common dog bite statistics. However, in recent years, animal rights activists have been trying to overturn these preconceptions on the breed, standing the ground that the owner is at fault for the behavior of the dog, not the actual breed. As the widespread negative outlook on these dogs is beginning to decrease, so is the severity of laws surrounding ownership.
Yakima is one of the cities that is beginning to move toward more lenient breed ownership laws. Yakima City Council recently considered overturning these laws that have been around since the 1980s. When this law is overturned, owners in the city will be allowed to own this breed legally, just like Golden Retrievers or any other breed.
However, the discussion of overturning the law left many Yakima residents with a lot of questions—some people may even feel fearful. If this breed was once considered to dangerous to own, why is now suddenly safe for them to be treated like any other breed? Should I be scared if I encounter a dog of this type? What happens if I get bitten by a pit bull?
All of these are valid questions and can be answered.
Why are pit bulls just now considered safe?
As mentioned previously, animal rights activists have worked diligently for decades trying to prove to the public that it is not the breed itself that is dangerous, but instead the owner and their ability to properly train the breed. While pit bulls are naturally more aggressive than some other breeds (i.e. poodles), this does not mean that every pit bull is ready to attack, just as inherently calm breeds can sometimes unexpectedly act out in aggression. This new outlook on ownership and liability for your dog has allowed the general population to understand that not ever pit bull is out to attack—as long as they have a responsible owner.
Should I be scared if I encounter a pit bull?
No matter what breed of dog you encounter, you should always proceed with caution. An unknown dog is an unknown dog, no matter what breed. Always ask the owner’s permission before approaching or petting the dog. No one knows the dog’s tendencies and nature better than the owner, so you should always speak with them before physical interaction. With this being said, there is no reason that you should be any more or less scared when approaching a pit bull than you would be with any other breed.
If the dog is not accompanied by an owner, you should proceed with extra caution, no matter the breed. Do not run toward the dog or crouch down to its level. Do not reach out your hand. Let the dog sniff you naturally, the proceed from there.
What if I get bitten or attacked by a pit bull?
The answer to this question is no different than if you got bitten or attacked by any breed. Even if a pit bull ban is eventually lifted in Yakima, Washington, the dog bite laws pertain to every breed in the same way. With that being said, there are a few things that you need to know if you have been bitten or attacked by any type of dog.
First, the owner of the dog is always liable for the injuries endured, as long as the attack occurred in a public place or lawfully in a private place. For example, if the owner invites you into their yard, and the attack happens there, the liability still stands with the owner. However, if you are trespassing on their property when the attack happens, liability will be up for questioning.
What if the dog has never previously shown aggression? What if there was no way to know it would attack?
This law differs from state-to-state, but in Washington, it does not matter whether the dog has been vicious in the past. No matter the dog’s “record” or the predictability of the attack, the owner is still liable in the aforementioned circumstances.
If you have suffered injures due to a dog bit or attack, do not hesitate to contact the personal injury team at Larson Griffee & Pickett PLLC today.