The year 2020 is coming to an end and it has certainly been one of many challenges. One trend that we have been noticing is animal complaints involving dogs.

The Sheriff’s Office conducts dog meetings when a dog is accused of being either potentially dangerous or of being dangerous. There is no leash law in the unincorporated portions of the county but that doesn’t mean your dog can run loose and commit various issues on public and private property without the owner being held responsible.

The Sheriff’s Office has investigated more than 900 animal complaints this year. Many are in reference to a dog coming onto a neighbor’s property.

Since dogs can roam, it is difficult for a deputy or our animal control officer to make sure dogs stay on their own property.

However, if a dog bites someone when unprovoked on public or private property, chases or approaches a person on a street, sidewalk or any public ground in a menacing fashion or apparent attitude of attack, it can be found to be a potentially dangerous dog.

If a dog inflicts serious injury when unprovoked to a person on public or private property, kills a domestic or livestock animal while off the owner’s property, it can be found to be a dangerous dog.

The Sheriff’s Office is responsible to determine if a dog is either “dangerous” or “potentially dangerous” based upon the seriousness of the aggressive dog’s actions. If your dog is determined to be one of those kinds, there are requirements that go along with the guilty verdict.

A meeting is held at the Sheriff’s Office. The undersheriff listens to the animal control officer and the dog owner, and rules on if the dog fits into either of the categories listed above based on the Dangerous Dog ordinance.

The Sheriff’s Office averages about 20 of these meetings a year but we have conducted 12 in the past few weeks.

A recent case seems to be a common issue.

A dog owner was out for a walk with his two small dogs on a public road. A large dog came out of his own yard and attacked the two smaller dogs as the owner tried to keep the larger dog away.

Minor injuries occurred to the two smaller dogs and the case went to a meeting to determine if the larger dog would be deemed potentially dangerous.

Please ensure you are being responsible for your dog if you don’t have a fenced yard and you allow it to run loose. Even though there are no leash laws, there are still owner responsibilities.

If you live in a neighborhood that has HOA rules that require you have your dog on a leash when it is off your property, the Sheriff’s Office cannot enforce those rules.

We do receive many of those calls from people within those private communities and if the dog hasn’t violated the dangerous or potentially dangerous ordinance, we refer them to their HOA executive board for its own sanctions.

— Chad Clark is undersheriff of the Skagit County Sheriff’s Office. Send questions to scsocommunity@co.skagit.wa.us.

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(1) comment


In addition to the sheriff's criminal investigation responsibilities, dogs deemed dangerous will be removed from their owners and put down. Also, the owner is responsible in civil courts for any damages, including usual tort damages of pain and suffering, loss of income, medical costs, etc. Homeowner's insurance usually excludes coverage for dog bites.

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