Lewis County se­lects Dan­ger­ous An­i­mal Panel

The Olympian - - News - BY ALEX BROWN The Chron­i­cle, Cen­tralia

Lewis County com­mis­sion­ers fi­nal­ized the newly cre­ated Dan­ger­ous An­i­mal Des­ig­na­tion Board Tues­day, nam­ing five mem­bers to sit on the panel that will de­cide the fate of an­i­mals deemed po­ten­tially threat­en­ing.

“We were very pleased with all the back­ground of all the ap­pli­cants,” said Danette York, di­rec­tor of Lewis County Pub­lic Health and So­cial Ser­vices. “It made it dif­fi­cult to break it out as to who would make the five.”

Lewis County re­ceived nine ap­pli­ca­tions for the board, and hope­fuls in­ter­viewed with York and her team, who made rec­om­men­da­tions to the com­mis­sion. The five board mem­bers will be El­sista Rid­ings, Craig Burke, Charles Snipes, Kevin Nel­son and April Hoyt.

York noted that ap­pli­cants in­cluded train­ers, breed­ers, ex­otic an­i­mal ex­perts and peo­ple with law en­force­ment and le­gal back­grounds.

The board was cre­ated fol­low­ing the con­tro­ver­sial saga of Hank/Tank, a dog ini­tially deemed dan­ger­ous. After York and other county staff came to be­lieve the an­i­mal was harm­less, they adopted him out un­der a dif­fer­ent name so he wouldn’t be eu­th­a­nized, lead­ing to a drawn-out le­gal bat­tle over the dog’s fate and crim­i­nal charges against York and An­i­mal Shel­ter Man­ager Amy Han­son.

Since that con­tro­versy, the county has con­tracted with an an­i­mal con­trol ex­pert from Thurston County to make dan­ger­ous an­i­mal des­ig­na­tions, at a cost of $250 plus mileage. The new board is de­signed to be a long-term so­lu­tion, elim­i­nat­ing the need to pay a third party and re­mov­ing the bur­den from York and her staff.

“We’re all pleased that it’s mov­ing for­ward,” York said. “I feel like it’s go­ing to be a bet­ter process, be­cause we have more than one per­son hear­ing both sides and mak­ing a joint de­ci­sion, and it has the com­mu­nity in­put.”

York – or her de­signee – will still be the tiebreak­ing vote if the board is dead­locked on a de­ci­sion, but the county is hope­ful that sce­nario won’t arise.

The five-mem­ber panel will need a quo­rum of three to make de­ci­sions, but if four are present, of­fi­cials may ask if one will be will­ing to ab­stain, to avoid the po­ten­tial for a tie.

“I re­ally don’t want you to be the tiebreaker,” Com­mis­sioner Gary Stam­per said to York.

York said that’s un­likely to hap­pen, as most de­ci­sions are “cut and dry.”

York and deputy pros­e­cut­ing at­tor­ney Eric Eisen­berg met with po­ten­tial pan­elists to ex­plain the board’s role and the fact that they may have to make painful de­ci­sions.

“It is an emo­tional hear­ing,” York said. “You have peo­ple who are cry­ing and up­set and very pro­tec­tive of this an­i­mal – ‘It only hap­pened this once.’ You have to be able to re­move your­self from the emo­tion, be­cause it will be emo­tional.”

All of the ap­pli­cants said they were still will­ing to serve.

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