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Woman sues Yakima over pit bull ban after her service dog is impounded

Banned service dog Romeo

YAKIMA, Wash. - Danika Denton of Yakima had her service dog Romeo for over a year before the city determined he was a pit bull and forced her to move the dog outside city limits. Now Denton is suing the city.

"Romeo has an innate ability to really aid Danika and that makes him an emotional support animal, but he is also a service dog because of the individualized training," said Adam Karp with Animal Law Offices, who is representing Denton.

According to the case report, Denton didn't have anywhere to take Romeo, so the city impounded him. However, Denton's family members in Selah were able to take him in.

The city of Yakima implemented a pit bull ban back in 1987 that bans four specific pit bull breeds - American pit bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, American bulldogs and American Staffordshire terriers.

Yakima city spokesman Randy Beehler said the council implemented the ban after a few pit bulls attacked people.

"The case that really drew a lot of attention was an older gentleman, a senior citizen, who was in a wheelchair and got attacked by a pit bull," said Beehler. "His injuries were so severe that he passed away."

The city would not discuss Denton's case, but Beehler said the ban excludes service dogs if they are certified in the city.

"So if somebody has a pit bull that does meet the criteria, the DNA criteria, they have to come to the city, go through a process of certifying that that dog is in fact a service animal," he said. "Otherwise no, it can't be allowed in the city."

It's not clear why Romeo was forced to move outside the city if he is a service dog. However, according to the case report, Denton doesn't even think Romeo is a pit bull at all. She said he is a lab mix.

According to the case file, an animal control officer determined Romeo was a pit bull simply by looking at him.

"If they're basing it purely on eyeballing by an officer who may have done a number of evaluations, but there really is no scientific foundation," Karp said.

Beehler said the city is not out actively looking for pit bulls in Yakima but if they receive a complaint, they have to investigate it.

He said the city receives between 80 and 90 complaints about pit bulls a year.

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