- Category: Provocation
- Created on 06 February 2011
- Last Updated on 17 March 2014
- Written by Fred M. Kray
Haggblom v. City of Dillingham
Provocation Considered in the Dangerous Dog Context
Concurring Opinion Highlights Provocation Issues
Haggblom's dog bit a co-worker when she tried to open a gate to her work area. The dog was found to be vicious since it had bitten without provocation and was to be euthanized under Dillingham's dangerous dog ordinance. Haggblom appealed, arguing the ordinance was vague, since there was no definition of provocation, and other procedural grounds.
The dog's classification was affirmed on appeal, because the facts were clear and there was not much to argue with respect to provocation and the bite itself. However, the concurring opinion does a wonderful job of discussing the problems with the ordinance, including the issue of provocation.
Justice Eastaugh wrote a concurring opinion, "to call attention to the deficiencies in the ordinance, its administrative enforcement, and the superior court appeal." The ordinance fails to distinguish between vicious and non vicious animals. It treats a playful nip the same as a brutal dog mauling. There are no standards for making this distinction, and what type of dogs should be subject to the severe sanction of euthanasia. Likewise there is no standard for determining what constitutes provocation - a pat on the head or the pulling of a tail. No distinction is made whether a child or adult is a victim. Provocation when animals attack each other is also problematic. Because the ordinance does not take into account the severity of the bite, there is no rational relationship between the act of biting and the penalty of euthanasia. Finally, without any standards, animal control officers exercise discretion as to whether they will require euthanasia or the dog may be banished from the city limits. None of the officers enforcing the ordinance have had specific training in these areas. While the facts in Haggblow are clear, the judge made it clear that the ordinance has deficiencies that need to be addressed.
A well reasoned concurrence, which should be read by anyone interested in the issue of provocation.