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Dangerous dog law ruled unconstitutional

Dec. 5, 2011 at 5:31 PM

TAKOMA, Wash., Dec. 5 (UPI) -- Pierce County, Wash.'s dangerous-dog ordinance has been declared unconstitutional by a state appeals court.

The court said the law may be designed to protect the public but it deprives dog owners of their constitutional due process -- fair procedure -- rights, The (Tacoma, Wash.) News-Tribune reported Monday.

The newspaper said county Auditor Julie Anderson plans to appeal. Anderson's office oversees the county's animal control department.

Anderson suspended the collection of fees from people seeking a hearing to challenge the designation of their dogs as dangerous. She said the county also will refund fees to people who have paid but not yet had their hearing.

"This is a temporary measure until we can settle the law," she told The News Tribune in an e-mail.

A panel of the Division II Court of Appeals issued its opinion last week. The ruling said the fees were unconstitutional because they could deprive people who can't afford to pay the right to challenge the declaration of their dogs as dangerous.

Bellingham attorney Adam Karp, who represented a Pierce County woman who challenged the law, summed it up this way: "You shouldn't have to purchase justice."

The case that brought the appeals panel ruling stems from an April 2009. A 7-pound Pomeranian was attacked by another dog, and was hurt so badly it had to be put down.

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