Dangerous Dogs

The lawyers at Ashbach Law Offices, LLC provide aggressive, strong defense for those charged with Dangerous Dog allegations throughout Skagit, Snohomish, King and Whatcom Counties. Our goal is to aggressively protect you, your family and your interests from the prosecution, saving jail time, licenses, occupations and reputations. With offices in Marysville and Mill Creek, Washington, we are available to meet you discuss your case. We help good people in bad situations. Let us help you.
In General
There are several state statutes that relate to the possession, and handling of, “dangerous dogs” and “potentially dangerous dogs.” In addition to these state statutes, many cities and municipalities have enacted municipal codes directed at criminalizing similar activities. In general, these municipal codes have been upheld by Washington State appellate courts. In fact, cities can exclude all dangerous dogs.

Dangerous Dog versus Potentially Dangerous Dog
In general, Potentially Dangerous Dogs are only subject to local ordinances, city or county. Dangerous Dogs, on the other hand, are subject to state law and local ordinances.

A “Dangerous Dog” is a dog that a) inflicts severe injury on a human without provocation, regardless of location, b) kills a domestic animal without provocation while off the owner’s property, or c) has previously been found to be “potentially dangerous” because of prior injury inflicted, and subsequently aggressively bites, attacks or endangers the safety of humans.

“Severe injury” means any physical injury that results in broken bones or disfiguring lacerations requiring multiple sutures or cosmetic surgery.

“Potentially dangerous dog” means any dog that, when unprovoked: a) inflicts bites on a human or a domestic animal, either on public or private property, or b) chases or approaches a person upon the streets, sidewalks or any public grounds in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack, or any dog with a known propensity, tendency or disposition to attack unprovoked, to cause injury, or to cause injury or otherwise to threaten the safety of humans or domestic animals.

In many cases, a dangerous dog must be immediately confiscated by animal authority. If any issues are not resolved within a 20-day cure period, that dangerous dog is then to be destroyed.

Regardless of any classification of a dog, or lack thereof, the owner of any dog that causes severe injury or death to any human may be charged with a Class C Felony.

Failure to Register a Dangerous Dog
It is unlawful for an owner to have a dangerous dog without a certificate of registration as required by RCW 16.08.080. Failure to Register a Dangerous Dog is typically a Gross Misdemeanor. However, if the owner has a prior conviction for this crime, and the dangerous dog attacks or bites a person or other domestic animal, the owner may be charged with a Class C Felony.

It is an affirmative defense that the defendant must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she was in compliance with the requirements for ownership of a dangerous dog pursuant to this chapter and the person or domestic animal attacked or bitten by the defendant’s dog trespassed on the defendant’s real or personal property or provoked the defendant’s dog without justification or excuse.

Other Dangerous Dog Requirements
A dangerous dog is also subject to immediate confiscation (and possible destruction) if problems are not cured within 20 days, if the dog is not properly insured as required by RCW 16.08.080, not maintained in a proper enclosure or is outside the proper enclosure and not under physical restraints of the responsible person.

“Proper enclosure of a dangerous dog” means, while on the owner’s property, a dangerous dog shall be securely confined indoors or in a securely enclosed and locked pen or structure, suitable to prevent the entry of young children and designed to prevent the animal from escaping. Such pen or structure shall have secure sides and a secure top, and shall also provide protection from the elements for the dog.

Penalties and Appeal
If a dog is confiscated, the owner must pay costs of confinement and control upon conviction. The owner is required to receive notice from animal control regarding the reasons for the seizure, the ability to fix any deficiencies and that the animal will be destroyed within 20 days if deficiencies are not resolved.

An owner must be given the opportunity to meet with animal control to discuss whether a dog should be declared dangerous. This meeting must occur within 15 days of receipt of notice to declare a dog as dangerous. After the meeting, animal control has an additional 15 days to issue a final, written order.

Local jurisdictions may set their own rules for appeal, in which case those rules must be followed. The owner may appeal a municipal authority’s final determination that the dog is dangerous to the municipal court, and may appeal a county animal control authority’s or county sheriff’s final determination that the dog is dangerous to the district court. The owner must make such appeal within 20 days of receiving the final determination. While the appeal is pending, the authority may order that the dog be confined or controlled in compliance with RCW 16.08.090. If the dog is determined to be dangerous, the owner must pay all costs of confinement and control.

Seattle’s SMC 9.25.083 states: “It is unlawful to own a dangerous animal (other than a licensed guard or attack dog) with knowledge that the animal is dangerous, or with reckless disregard of the fact that the animal is dangerous.”

Everett’s EMC 6.08.025 requires dangerous dogs to be microchipped.

Lynnwood’s 6.02.025 provides rules for dangerous animals, providing “It is unlawful for a person to own a dangerous animal within the city limits unless that person has a current certificate of registration for that animal.”


Ashbach Law Offices, LLC, aggressively represents clients throughout the Washington I-5 corridor, covering Skagit, Snohomish, King and Whatcom Counties. Regular courts of practice include, but are not limited to, Anacortes, Arlington, Bellevue, Bellingham, Blaine, Burlington, Edmonds, Everett, Issaquah, Lynnwood, Marysville, Monroe, Mount Vernon, Mountlake Terrance, Redmond, Seattle, Sedro Woolley and Shoreline.