Lewis County’s Dangerous Animal Designation (DAD) board voted 2-1 this week to designate two dogs as “dangerous” after the pair chased a neighbor's horse and mangled a cat during two separate incidents reported earlier this year.
The board heard oral arguments from the dog owners and the county at a quasi-judicial hearing on Wednesday. The designation carries with it the possibility of euthanasia, but other options for care and longterm reporting compliance exist.
Under Lewis County code, animals can be deemed “potentially dangerous animals” if they chase or approach a person in public spaces in a “menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack, or any animal with a particularly known propensity, tendency or disposition to attack unprovoked, to cause injury or otherwise to threaten the safety of humans or domestic animals.”
The board found the animals to be dangerous under this definition.
The dogs in question are a male husky named Lobo and a female Rottweiler named Karma. The animals were owned by Winlock resident Miguel Munoz at the time of the incident, though they were turned over to Lewis County Animal Shelter on May 5.
Lobo continues to be in the possession of the county, but Karma was adopted on May 10 by Chehalis resident Rebecca Nichols, who has since appealed the designation. In documents, she said she "didn't feel this animal was given a fair hearing. I feel that decision was based on her being a Rottweiler. I have cats and chickens and she has never bothered these animals."
Bill Teitzel, supervisor and code compliance officer with Lewis County Environmental Health, said a successful appeal process would cover both animals since the single designation covers both animals.
“This has been kind of an unusual case. It usually doesn’t end up like this,” he said of the change of ownership.
The designation stems from two incidents that occurred earlier this year.
On the morning of Jan. 31, a resident living on the 100 block of Kakela Road called the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office to report that she had awoken to find two dogs menacingly chasing her two horses in her pasture.
According to documents from the sheriff’s office, the woman discharged her firearm “several times” into the ground to get the dogs to stop, but they didn’t.
The deputy transported the two animals to the Lewis County Animal Shelter, since there was no chip or address-identifying badge, and the dogs were later recovered by Munoz. It’s unclear if the horses sustained any harm from the incident.
The second incident occurred around 10 a.m. on April 28 near the 700 block of Nevil Road. According to a deputy’s report, the reporting party told the officer she saw her neighbor’s two dogs chasing her 9-year-old cat.
"She stated she ran after them yelling at them to scare them off, which she did and found her cat bleeding from the belly and back feet," read the report. She also told the deputy she felt her cat would survive the incident.
During testimony, Munoz told the board he had installed an electric fence within the perimeter of their fence after the second incident and hadn’t had any problems with the pets disobeying the perimeter prior to the incident.
Munoz said the cat has also been seen multiple times at his koi pond, but could give no evidence as to if the cat was at the pond during the time the chase broke out.
Designating animals as dangerous has been a balancing act for Environmental Health’s umbrella department Lewis County Public Health and Social Services in recent years. A well-known fiasco that unraveled over several years with a dog named Tank — which was adopted out by animal shelter officials after they renamed him Hank — led to the creation of the board.
The citizen-led board’s creation between 2018 and 2019 was meant to bring more transparency and oversight to the designation process.
A first-time dog owner as of just a couple years ago, Munoz said he found it difficult to train Lobo, the male husky.
"The reason I came today is to say I really care about my dogs. I don't want them to be put down," Munoz told the board, adding that it was hard to give the dogs up.
He said he respectfully disagreed with designating both the dogs as dangerous, especially since Karma, the Rottweiler, was simply following the lead of Lobo. He said he hopes the board will consider allowing Lobo to be adopted by a trainer more suitable than himself.
Eric Eisenberg, Lewis County’s chief civil deputy prosecuting attorney who was serving as the board’s legal counsel, said Nichols could carry forward with the dangerous dog designation, which would require registration with the county and other mandates with Karma, if her appeal falls flat.
“There are a lot of different options … But it’s not the case that if your dog is considered dangerous, euthanasia is the immediate process that follows,” he said.
Eisenberg said relinquishing dangerous animals over to the shelter would likely result in euthanasia, though. He said he was unsure what Lobo’s future is since he is currently being held at the shelter.
When Lobo and Karma were handed over to the shelter in May, staff who were unaware of their history said both dogs were “friendly, healthy and highly adoptable,” according to case documents.