Pit Bull Service Dog Attacks 3 People, Pet Dog in Yakima, WA

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

A registered pit bull service dog attacked three people and another dog in Yakima, Washington, after it got loose from its owner’s home on Thursday, the Yakima Herald reports.

It was only two weeks ago that the Yakima City Council, at the urging of Pit Bull advocates, approved an exemption for service and therapy dogs under a city ordinance that otherwise bans pit bulls.

The incident started when the dog escaped out the front door of a home in the 1300 block of Garfield Avenue while its owner was in the back yard, said city Code Enforcement Officer Joe Caruso.

The service dog first attacked a dog at a home one block away on West Lincoln Avenue, then bit that dog’s owner as he attempted to rescue his pet, Caruso said.

The Pit Bull then turned its attention back on the canine victim and was approaching for another attack on the dog when a second person tried to stop it and was also bitten, the officer explained.

A third witness was also bitten trying to control the animal, Caruso said.

One of people was finally able to grab the Pit Bull’s collar, which brought the animal under control. He walked it home and shut the door behind it, according to the report.

Caruso said he did not know the severity of injuries suffered by those bitten, nor their identities.

A city application to register the Pit Pull as a service dog at the location where it was returned shows that the animal was owned by Scott Lusby, Caruso said.

According to the form, the dog provided emotional support, calmed its disabled owner, channeled negative emotions away and provided a sense of security, said Caruso.

Officials told the Yakima Herald that their attempt to contact Lusby by phone was not successful because the number he provided was out of service.

Yakima banned pit bulls in 1987 after three separate attacks by the breed. In December, the City Council was asked to reconsider the ban, but voted to continue it. However, on April 15, the council voted 5-2 on an ordinance creating an exemption for service and therapy dogs.

Mayor Micah Cawley said Friday the council is unlikely to take any action on the Pit Bull issue when it holds its regular meeting Tuesday. However, he anticipates it will be gathering information on what happened to see what changes, if any, are needed, the Herald reports.

Cawley voted against the exemption because it only applied to Pit Bulls, not other ‘potentially dangerous’ service dogs. He also questioned whether the city can impose additional restrictions on service animals.

Councilwoman Maureen Addison also voted against it, stating, “I don’t want to be mean-hearted on this, I’m just not willing to take the chance.”

Under the exemption, Pit Bulls serving as service dogs must be kept on leashes and muzzled when out in public, and confined to pens or locked enclosures when at home.

Since someone had left a door open, Caruso said he did not believe the regulations would have prevented Thursday’s attacks.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the City is only allowed to ask if the dog has been trained as a service animal, and what kind of service it performs. Caruso said the city is not allowed to ask for documentation showing the dog’s training or proof that the person registering a service animal is actually disabled.

The Pit Bull involved in Thursday’s attack could be taken away from its owner if it is judged to be a dangerous animal, he said. He added that since the ban had been exempted, five or six other application for Pit Bull service dogs had been received.

Officer Caruso said the city is not pursuing the case because the dog is a Pit Bull. He stated that the city would follow the same course of action with any other dog that attacked.

Sources: Yakima Herald, Spokesman