Two county employees are facing criminal penalties in Lewis County District Court after they “conspired to circumvent” county code, changed a dog’s name and adopted it out to new owners without informing them that the dog had previously been declared dangerous.
Director of Lewis County Public Health and Social Services Danette York and Lewis County Animal Shelter Manager Amy Hanson both face two counts of criminal charges for effect of designation and animal at large.
According to court documents, the first count of effect of designation carries a maximum penalty of 364 days in jail and/or a $5,000 fine, while the maximum penalty for the second count of animal at large is 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
In April 2016, a pit-bull terrier named Tank allegedly killed livestock along with another dog, leading York to declare the animal as dangerous under Lewis County Code.
After the original owner did not comply with provisions for dangerous animals, the dog was seized by the county and delivered to the Lewis County Animal Shelter.
In September 2016, York contacted Eric Eisenberg with the county’s Prosecutor’s Office about changing the code to allow for a no-kill option for the dog. Afterwards, Hanson made several attempts to transfer the animal to other shelters or trainers with experience in rehabilitating dangerous dogs with no success, according to court documents.
“Leading up to January 17, 2017, Ms. Hanson and Ms. York, believing ‘Tank’ to be rehabilitated, exchanged ideas about how they could prevent Lewis County from euthanizing ‘Tank,’” court documents state. “Due to the fact that neither Ms. Hanson nor Ms. York could find a shelter or trainer to accept ‘Tank’ as a result of his background, they conspired to circumvent the Lewis County Code and the processes in place for handling a dangerous dog.”
Documents go on to state that Hanson, at either the direction or encouragement of York, who is her supervisor, changed the animal’s name from Tank to Hank on official adoption paperwork. He was then adopted out to a new owner, Jann Propp-Estimo, without disclosing the animal’s background.
Once the dog was in Propp-Estimo’s possession, he was allowed to roam unsupervised in the neighborhood where she lived, according to court documents. He was later given to her son.
In May of 2017, Eisenberg asked Hanson about the dog and was informed that he had been adopted out. Eisenburg then notified the Sheriff’s Office about the animal’s dangerous designation and that it was adopted out to a family that was unaware of “its aggressive tendencies,” according to court documents. Once that information came to light, a detective seized the dog from its owner on May 9 and returned it back to the shelter where he is still currently housed.
Propp-Estimo has retained Adam Karp of Animal Law Offices in an attempt to save the dog’s life and have him returned to her possession.
In June, Lewis County District Court Judge R.W. Buzzard upheld the dangerous designation and said the dog should be euthanized. A court issued stay protected the dog from euthanasia.
That same day, the Board of Lewis County Commissioners approved an ordinance that allowed a judge to reconsider a dangerous dog distinction based on new evidence.
An appeal hearing of Buzzard’s decision has been set in Grays Harbor Superior Court for Friday, Sept. 8.
York and Hanson are scheduled to appear in Lewis County District Court this Friday at 10 a.m. York is represented by lawyer Shane O’Rourke, while Hanson is represented by Don Blair.
The charges were filed by the Pacific County Prosecutor’s Office, which reviewed the case for Lewis County.