The Revised Code of Washington has an entire chapter devoted to dog bites. Lawmakers drafted a statute imposing strict liability on the owner of a dog that bites and injures someone. The statute was meant to cover situations like the recent mauling two pit bulls inflicted on a 71 year old SeaTac woman:
Eric John Makus said his adopted mother, Huong Thi Le, 71, now has permanent disabilities after the two pit bulls attacked her as she was returning home from walking a boy that she takes care of to the bus stop.
The two dogs, Big Guy and Rim Shot, broke out of the fenced-in back yard and attacked Huong at about 8:10 a.m. in SeaTac, Sgt. John Urquhart with the King County Sheriff’s Office said.
A deputy shot and killed one of the dogs. The other dog ran off but was shot and killed by another deputy who responded to the call, Urquhart said.
But there is a perversion in the law and it’s being exploited by the owners of dangerous dogs and the attorneys appointed for them by their homeowners insurance carriers. The perversion is the defense of provocation.
Provocation should be interpreted like a canine self-defense statute. However, defense lawyers and some judges believe the defense should apply even where the dog is made to feel resentment toward the person it attacks.
Where does this end? May a dog attack a person because that person refuses to share his dinner with the dog, because he does not allow the dog to sit on the couch, because he shuns the dogs attempts to fornicate with his leg?
Provocation needs to be clarified and circumscribed. If it isn’t, the perversion of the strict liability statute will continue.