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Clinton owner of two biting dogs must appear in court

The owner of two dogs that bit two teenage girls as they were walking home in Clinton earlier this month has been served with two criminal citations.

Island County Animal Control Officer Carol Barnes said Thursday that Carrie Anderson of Clinton must appear in Oak Harbor District Court on Aug. 24 on two violations of the county’s leash law.

Maximum penalty on the two counts is a $500 fine, 90 days in jail or both, Barnes said.

“Public safety is a huge concern,” Barnes said, noting that the incident occurred in a residential area blocks from a school.

“There are children walking in the area,” she said.

The attack occurred at dusk on Tuesday, April 3, as Sarah Young, 15. and a friend visiting from Seattle were walking to Young’s home along Harding Avenue.

Sarah was bitten on her hand, and her friend was bitten on the calf of her leg, said Sarah’s father, Joseph Young.

He said the dogs, described by Barnes as 3-year-old Boxer-Labrador mix males named Rocky and Tyson, rushed the girls as they were walking to Sarah’s home. Sarah’s friend was bitten first, but managed to escape when the dogs took after Sarah as she tried to run home, he said.

Young said the dogs fell upon a screaming Sarah before she could reach her door, but she was spared further injury when the family dog Breezy, a 4-year-old Lab mix, ran around the house and straight for the attacking dogs, causing them to back off their attack.

Sarah later was taken to Whidbey General Hospital in Coupeville, where her hand was bandaged. Her friend received treatment after returning home to Seattle.

Barnes said the dogs were supposed to have been restrained from leaving Anderson’s yard by an “invisible fence” activated electronically via collars around the dogs’ necks. But the dogs were outside the yard when the attack occurred.

“Invisible fencing is only somewhat effective,” Barnes said. “A dog can break through.”

Barnes said Anderson was cooperating, although Barnes had responded to an earlier complaint involving the two dogs getting out of their yard. She said that both the dogs had up-to-date licenses and vaccinations.

Barnes said Anderson was in the process of building a fence, and that meanwhile the dogs were being kept indoors when Anderson was away from home.

“But if the dogs were loose off the property again, we would respond immediately with another criminal citation,” Barnes said. “There’s zero tolerance.”

Barnes said that county health department regulations allow her to impound an offending dog at the WAIF animal shelter in Coupeville only if she catches the animal in the act, even in the case of bites.

And even then, an owner has the right to reclaim the dog, after paying an impound fee, if its shots and licenses are current, she said.

Barnes said she feels the laws regarding biting dogs could be stronger.

“Is there a concern? Yes,” she said. “Public safety is a huge concern, but no county code gives me the position of authority to respond more aggressively to this level of incident.”

“We can’t just go on the property and seize the dog,” she added.

The Clinton incident was the second dog attack in the South End on the same day.

About 4:30 p.m. on Aug. 3, a Clinton man called the sheriff’s office after he was bitten in the leg by a dog tied to the railing outside Linds Pharmacy in Freeland.

Barnes said the man was bitten by the 8-year-old Chow mix female as he was walking by the animal on the sidewalk. Reached later by the Record, the man declined to be identified or to discuss the incident.

Barnes said the dog was current on its vaccinations, but was not licensed. She said that there are “apparent behavior concerns” regarding the dog, and that criminal charges against the woman who owns the animal are pending.

“There seems to be an elevation of dog bites at this time of the year,” Barnes said. “Sometimes the owners put the dogs in compromising positions.”

“It’s unfortunate when these things happen,” she added, “but we can only follow the regulations of the county health department.”

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