• When dogs attack, owners walk away scot-free

    By: David Ham

    Updated:

    According to state law, "The owner of any dog that aggressively attacks and causes severe injury or death of any human, whether or not the dog has previously been declared potentially dangerous or dangerous, shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a class C felony punishable in accordance with RCW 9A.20.021."
     

    Yet KIRO 7 found that in the past 10 years, only two people have been charged with the felony in King County.
     
    That's more than disappointing for Vietnam veteran Bob Hedges, who was brutally attacked by three dogs in July 2013.
     
    "That thought came to mind a couple of times. I said I better get my stuff together here or pretty much gonna be a has been," said Hedges
     
    KIRO 7 also found that none of the dog owners in that attack were ever held responsible for the attack. One of the three dogs was allowed to live despite having a history of aggressive behavior.
     
    That dog's name is Savage.
     
    In 2010, Seattle olice was called because Savage was acting agressively and had to be impounded before the situation escalated.
     
    After Hedges was attacked in July 2013, animal control officers said Savage tried biting at them. The owner, Leah Hutton, was also cited at least three times for violating leash laws.
     
    "Just because his name is Savage doesn't mean his intentions are savage. He's not a savage animal. He's not a beast. He's a f***ing pet," said Hutton.
     
    Hutton added she never trained Savage to be aggressive.
     
    "There was no animal abuse. We don't do that none of that. We don't get down like that," said Hutton.
     
    King County Animal Control reported 509 animal bites in the past two years. Most of those involved dogs, yet those owners aren't being charged.
     
    KIRO 7 flagged the concerns for King County Animal Control.
     
    "Our interpretation is that we would have to prove that the dog owner knew or should have known. and that seems to be a fairly high bar," said Dr. Gene Mueller, director of King County Animal Control.
     
    KIRO 7 also asked about Hedges's case, where the owners weren't punished despite his mauling.
     
    "Because of your interest in this story, we've actually had our staff create the record and will be providing that to the prosecuting attorney's office for their review," said Mueller.
     
    "That's amazing. That's pretty cool," said Hedges, after KIRO 7 told him about the update in his case.
     
    "I knew it wasn't a pit bull problem right off the bat. I knew it was an owner problem," said Hedges.
     
    The prosecutor's office said deputies are currently reviewing Hedges's case to see if charges will be filed.
     
    As for Savage, KIRO 7 asked the county why he wasn't euthanized.
     
    "It depends on a number of factors: If it was a first offense; severity of the attack; and of course, the owner's right to due process. A euthanasia order is a final step that's used in rare circumstances. There are also a few instances where the owner will request euthanasia. However, in most cases, a removal order is all that is needed, and owners comply," said a representative for King County Animal Control.

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