An Update on the Eastlake Dog Attack

Media questions can be directed to Melissa Mixon at melissa.mixon@seattle.gov 

On Friday, May 5, 2022 the Seattle Animal Shelter responded to reports of a dog attack on Eastlake after two dogs reportedly escaped from a nearby vehicle. The victim sustained severe injuries and was transported to Harborview Medical Center.  

The dogs involved in the attack are being held by the shelter pending the outcome of an investigation. While we cannot comment on an active investigation, the following aims to help answer questions that community members may have.  

Where are the dogs now? 
The two dogs are in the shelter’s care.  

What is the purpose of the investigation? 
The investigation is to ultimately determine whether the dogs can be returned to their owner or not. If, during an investigation, the City moves forward with the process for a “dangerous dog” designation for an animal, an administrative hearing is held to determine the outcome. Potential outcomes for a dog determined to be dangerous include relocating the dog outside of city limits or euthanasia. The owner can appeal any hearing decision with the Office of the Seattle Hearing Examiner.  

How is a dog determined to be a “dangerous dog”?   
In general, the designation as “dangerous” is based on the evidence collected during the investigation and factors in things like the severity of the bite and how it occurred (ie, provoked or unprovoked). When the City moves to designate a dog as “dangerous,” a hearing is held and at that point the owner has the right to appeal.  

Have there been previous attacks recorded by these same dogs?  
At the time of the incident the animals had no reported history of aggressive behavior that the Seattle Animal Shelter was aware of. 

How long do investigations usually take?  
This really depends. Investigation length is dependent on how much evidence there is to collect, interviewing of witnesses, the victim, and reviewing all evidence and information collected throughout. Investigations can take anywhere from a period of days to weeks. 

What happens to an animal when it bites someone?  
Standard protocol after any bite when skin is reported to be broken is for an animal to spend 10 days in quarantine. This quarantine is a standard and precautionary measure to monitor for neurological illness.  

Can animals quarantine with their owner? 
Animal Shelter policy permits the owner to quarantine their animal either at the shelter, at their vet or in their home. The shelter cannot remove an animal from their owner if the owner is cooperative and has a place to contain the animal. If the owner is uncooperative or does not have a place to contain the animal, the shelter can get a warrant to take the animal into its custody. Additionally, so long as an animal can be safely contained from other people and animals, Public Health’s preferred, and our standard approach when a quarantine is required, is to have the animal undergo quarantine in their owner’s care. 

Why did these dogs end up in the shelter’s care during quarantine?  
The animals had no previous reported history of aggressive behavior that the shelter was aware of, and the owner was cooperative and initially reported they could be quarantined in her care. Ultimately however, during our close monitoring of the pets, the owner determined jointly with the shelter within 24 hours of the incident that it was best for the animals to quarantine at the shelter.    

What can happen to an owner whose pet is involved in an attack? 

The enforcement against a pet owner depends on the severity of the injuries sustained by the victim. Fines would be imposed if the injuries sustained were less than severe and could also result in the issuance of a citation for violation of the leash law. In an incident where a person has suffered severe injury, the owner would face an administrative process for deeming a dog dangerous. The standard definition of severe injury means one or more lacerations or injuries requiring medical attention. The administrative process could potentially result in banning the animal from city limits.  

How often do severe attacks happen?  

The shelter staff respond to dog bite incidents on a daily basis. Injuries of the severity in this incident are relatively rare, however—perhaps a couple times a year. The shelter typically holds 20-25 administrative hearings annually. 

What steps can dog owners take to prevent aggressive behavior?  

Aggression in dogs is typically learned or shaped by their environment. 

Training and socialization (to strangers and other pets) is important to help dogs become good community members. The use of positive reinforcement training is recommended and if the socialization can start when the dog is still a puppy (before 4 months) this is ideal.  

Dogs respond to stimuli differently than humans so keeping your dog leashed while walking in public and ensuring that they are not able to run loose is the best prevention and ensures they don’t learn bad habits or create a danger to themselves or others.  

Another important factor in owning a dog is making sure that their enclosure is secure and can prevent a dog from escaping the enclosure.