Bonney Lake family's dog 'in jail' after killing chicken

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by TRICIA MANNING-SMITH / KING 5 News

KING5.com

Posted on May 30, 2010 at 4:10 PM

Updated Sunday, May 30 at 5:43 PM

BONNEY LAKE, Wash. - A Bonney Lake family says their dog was unfairly impounded because of a vague law. The dog is accused of killing a chicken, but they says its being treated as if it attacked a child.

The mixed breed, Meesha, has been at Puyallup's Metro Animal Shelter for more than three months. Her owners, the Seversons, consider her to be in jail.

"She (is) stuck there.  It was heart wrenching to see her there being defeated, because I knew how she felt," said  Darcie Severson. 

She has done everything possible to get her dog back home. The family has fenced their rural yard, Severson has contacted police, talked to a lawyer, attended a city council meeting, gone to a hearing, even picketed City Hall.  But more than three months later, Meesha is still locked up in the pound.

The last time Severson saw her dog, Darcie Severson says, Meesha appeared emotionally distressed.  "She cried and cried.  It was really sad."

Meesha is accused of running loose after killing a neighbor's chicken.  Severson has a letter detailing the dog's offense and declaring her a "dangerous dog."   But that city law does not distinguish between a dog that attacks a person, and a dog that attacks another animal, in this case allegedly a chicken. 

"It's not clearly defined under city code," said Bonney Lake Councilman Mark Hamilton.  

Hamilton also heads the city's public safety committee and concedes, as it is written, the city's dangerous dog ordinance is very broad. 

"The intent of the law was to protect the public or a child from being attacked by a dangerous dog. In this case. it's applied to a farm animal," said Hamilton.

Severson says that effectively elevates the chicken's status to that of a human.

"A chicken and a person is basically in the same category.  I definitely think there's a huge distinction between the two and it should be changed that way," Severson said while referring to the city law.

Severson and her family retain hope of eventually getting her dog back, but they fear the confinement will have changed their beloved pet's personality.

"My heart is to get her out, her rights are being violated just like mine," she said.

Severson says she's tried to settle this out of court, to no avail.  The city's policy is to force owners to get a $50,000 bond for all dogs deemed dangerous.  Bonney Lake's public safety committee may recommend changes in the city's dangerous dog ordinance at its next meeting.  Meanwhile, the owner of the chicken was not home today for comment.

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