Imagine getting pulled over for speeding, when in fact you were not speeding (try to stay calm, it's just a hypothetical). Despite the fact that you were not speeding, the officer nonetheless issues you a traffic citation for $150. Next, try to imagine that you want to clear your good name and prove that you were not speeding; so, you decide to contest the traffic citation. Well, finally, imagine that the only way to contest the traffic citation was to pay a non-refundable $150 appeal fee; thus, in this hypothetical, even if you clear your name and get your citation dismissed you're still out $150. Ouch! What's the point? Might as well pay, right?
Well that scenario is kind of how it worked with Pierce County's Dangerous Dog laws, under Pierce County Code 6.07.015. Under the provisions of the code (as written), an animal control officer could claim your dog was dangerous and hence penalties could ensue or worse yet, your pet could be euthanized. The only way to contest the animal control officer's findings would be to request a hearing before a hearing examiner, and to do that would require a $250 non-refundable fee. Say What?
Well not to worry, the law has been declared unconstitutional and Pierce County has stopped collecting the fees, thanks to a Washington Court of Appeals decision put out last week by Division II, under the case of Heidi Downey v. Pierce County. The Court of Appeals agreed with Downey that the fees charged violated her due process rights and are therefore unconstitutional. So, it looks as though Pierce County will have to change up its laws on this one.
For more on the story behind the case, check out the News Tribune's article by Adam Lynn: Pierce County's Dangerous-Dog Policy Deemed Unconstitutional.