Thursday, October 20, 2005

YOU CAN DO IT, TOO!

In 2001, I worked behind the scenes with a pro-dog group located in Seattle. We put together a candidate questionnaire just prior to the elections, which were sent to all the city council and mayoral candidates, challenging them to answer whether they were for or against changing Seattle’s terrible dog bite law.

Here is a copy of the final draft text of the questionnaire we devised…

D.O.G. Questionnaire for Mayoral/City Council Candidates

Last fall, within a period of 6 weeks, D.O.G. (Dangerous Ordinance Group) volunteers gathered over 3,000 signatures on a petition to the City Council. The petition requested that Seattle’s Dangerous Animals law (SMC Ch. 9.25) be rewritten to correct the many problems in the current law and that public hearings be held to gather citizens’ input. This past March, Councilmember Jan Drago convened a public meeting attended by more than 300 citizens, who overwhelmingly called for changes to the current law.

D.O.G. would like to know your opinions on these questions so that we can inform voters who are interested in the topic about your views. Feel free to comment on any answer.

Do you believe that Seattle's Dangerous Animals law needs to be rewritten to:

1) Provide due process at the first notification of a "potentially dangerous" behavior, so that pet owners who feel that their pet did nothing to deserve such a notice have the right to appeal to an impartial third party? (Currently, no such appeal right exists.)
___Y ___N

2) Create a process to give pet owners the right to cross-examine the complainant before an incident is entered on an animal's record? (Currently, complainants can choose to remain anonymous, giving the pet owner no way to dispute an accusation.)
___Y ___N

3) Tighten the definitions of what constitutes "potentially dangerous" and "dangerous" behavior, so as to better target dogs that are truly dangerous and exclude dogs that are just behaving like normal dogs? (Currently, any behavior that anyone feels is “menacing” can lead to such a notice. “Menacing” is a subjective term—and, for those who are afraid of dogs, can encompass many normal dog behaviors.) ___Y ___N

4) Define different categories of bites, with the penalty matched to the degree of seriousness, and euthanasia reserved only for the most serious attacks? (Currently, any dog deemed dangerous must be killed or—optionally, in some cases—permanently exiled to an animal shelter in Utah, which will never allow the dog’s owner to see it again. And a “dangerous” designation can result from nothing more than two “potentially dangerous” notices—which may not even involve a bite.)
___Y ___N

5) Allow training as an alternative disciplinary action in cases that involve less serious actions or injuries? (The current law does not provide for training as an option.)
___Y ___N

6) Expunge a "potentially dangerous" or "dangerous" designation from a dog's record if there are no repeat offenses within a specified period of time? (Under the current law, these designations remain on a dog’s record for the life of the dog. If the owner is ever unable to keep the dog, such a designation virtually guarantees that the dog will be euthanized rather than adopted into a new home.)
___Y ___N

7) Require neighborhood notification and identification of problem cat before allowing private citizens to trap cats? (Cats are legally allowed to run loose—but the current law allows anyone to trap them without notifying the neighborhood first or identifying the problem cat and the damage it has caused.)
___Y ___N

For more information about problems with the current law, visit… (now defunct web page address)

Every candidate answered all these questions. Then, the group widely published the results. The group was set up as a 501 c 3 non-profit, educational organization. Though prohibited from lobbying or endorsing any particular candidate, the survey results spoke for themselves. You could tell who was reasonable and who wasn’t. The current mayor of Seattle filled out the survey in a pro-dog manner… that should tell you how important this issue was at the time of the election.

Do you have upcoming elections in your town, county, or state? Then you could organize the same kind of effort, and start holding the local politicians to taking a pro-dog or anti-dog position. With the razor thin win/lose margins of today’s elections, your pro-dog group could determine the politics of your region. Think on that!

More to come later. I have learned quite a bit about how to organize such a campaign. I’m interested in forming a new group for this purpose. Let me know if you are interested.

1 comment:

Jocelyn said...

I am with ya!