Yakima, Washington has had a ban on Pit Bulls for the past 30 years. The city’s breed specific legislation was voted to law in 1987 when a series of dog attacks involved dogs who fit the “Pit Bull” description.
It’s been three decades since American Pit Bull Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Bulldogs, and American Staffordshire Terriers haven’t been allowed within city limits, but time has done nothing to clarify what’s allowed and what isn’t.
Dog owner Danika Denton found this out after a year of having her service dog, Romeo. The city suddenly decided the dog should be banned. They told her that Romeo needed to be permanently moved outside the city. But with nowhere to take him, the dog was impounded.
Romeo has since been released from official custody to stay with members of Denton’s family in Selah, but the dog’s owner isn’t going to let the city take away her service dog. She has decided to sue.
The city neglected to speak to news agencies about the case, but Yakima Communications and Public Affairs Director, Randy Beehler, spoke with KIMA-TV News. According to him, the ban on Pit Bulls does not include certified service animals.
“So if somebody has a pit bull that does meet the criteria, the DNA criteria, they have to come to the city, go through a process of certifying that that dog is in fact a service animal. Otherwise no, it can’t be allowed in the city.”
While Beehler speaks of DNA criteria determining a dog’s breed, the case file on Romeo reports an animal control officer made his conclusion via visual inspection of Romeo. Denton says Romeo isn’t a Pit Bull at all and never should have been taken. She says her dog is a Lab mix. Without scientific evidence, it’s unknown whether the city had any right to order the removal of the dog.
Identifying Pit Bull breeds is one of the major problems with breed specific legislation. “Pit Bull” is a blanket term used to cover a number of different dog breeds. In most cities with Pit Bull bans, they rely on vague descriptions. Any large dog with a big head and short fur is theoretically at risk of being banned.
Denton has hired representation with Animal Law Offices, and she plans to fight the city for the right to keep Romeo at home. There’s no word on why Romeo’s identity was scrutinized in the first place, but Beehler said officials aren’t out stalking the streets looking for Pit Bulls. A complaint was likely reported to police, who were then obligated to investigate. Yakima sees as many as 90 complaints about possible Pit Bulls a year.
Featured Image Source: Facebook/Danika Denton