Pit bull owners pack meeting. Kennewick drops rules on dangerous dogs after 40 years

Pit bull lovers chalked up a surprise victory Tuesday when the Kennewick City Council repealed its ‘80s rules governing dangerous dogs.

A new state law that weakened breed specific rules drove the change.

Pit bull owners and advocates packed the city council chambers to share how the dogs have been maligned as dangerous.

Pit bulls, they said, are no more likely to attack or bite than any other breed. While true, pit bull bites tend to be more damaging, prompting the rules in the first place.

Kennewick adopted its breed-specific rules on pit bulls and other potentially dangerous dogs in the ‘80s in a wave of reports about injuries inflicted by dangerous dogs.

Pit bulls and other so-called dangerous breeds had to have special licenses and their owners had to comply with special rules, including muzzling dogs in public.

The 2019 Washington Legislature stepped in with a bill requiring cities with breed specific legislation (BSLs) to exempt dogs that can be certified as good canine citizens by the American Kennel Club or other organizations.

The Kennewick City Council meeting Tuesday night hit its maximum capacity of people when a crowd showed up about a dangerous dog law. Noelle Haro-Gomez Tri-City Herald

The Kennewick council faced a difficult choice: Adopt new rules to exempt well-behaved dogs, or sweep away its breed-specific regulations altogether.

On a 4-2 vote, it chose the latter.

Council members Chuck Torelli, Paul Parish, Steve Lee and John Trumbo supported it. Mayor Don Britain and Councilman Ed Frost preferred the exemption approach. Councilman Bill McKay abstained.

The move does not exempt dog owners from liability if their pets attack.

Trumbo noted the move puts responsibility on dog owners rather than their pets.

John Trumbo

In other business Tuesday, the city council took a pass on a controversial code amendment that would have established rules governing clinics that promise syringe exchange services for drug addicts. The planning commission proposed a new set of rules.

But only three people attended a public hearing and the city has since received additional information from Blue Mountain Heart to Heart, the Walla Walla nonprofit that operates the exchange on Gage Boulevard, and wants the planning commission to take another look.

The move will give the public another chance to testify and potentially influence the rules before they return to the city council for adoption.

Wendy Culverwell writes about local government and politics, focusing on how those decisions affect your life. She also covers key business and economic development changes that shape our community. Her restaurant column and health inspection reports are reader favorites. She’s been a news reporter in Washington and Oregon for 25 years.