THE RULING sounded almost human: The inmate can either be killed or removed from death row to a more secure facility.
But the inmate in this State Appeals Court ruling is a dog—the Seattle Lhasa apso mix named Word, record holder of the most years (eight) spent on Doggie Death Row, according to Guinness World Records.
According to the recent appeals court ruling, the dog's Seattle owner, Wilton Rabon, can't have Word back as hoped. The City of Seattle was legally right to take the dog, age 11 in human years, and a second unleashed animal owned by Rabon after they bit two women on Capitol Hill in 1993. Both dogs were quarantined at the Seattle Animal Control shelter while Rabon, who is poor, tried various legal remedies to get them back.
After a Municipal Court jury found Rabon guilty of owning vicious animals, the city decided to kill the dogs in 1995 (the second dog, Parshebe, died of cancer in August 1999). Rabon filed a lawsuit which went twice to the appeals court, costing taxpayers at least $200,000 in legal fees.
Contemplating the fate of the aging Word, who has spent most of his life in confinement, the court ruled earlier this month that the city could properly take vicious animals from their owners and dispose of them if necessary, rejecting Rabon's claims of lack of proper procedures and jurisdiction.
Neither Rabon nor his attorney could be reached last week. But assistant city attorney Thomas M. Castagna says there is still time for Rabon to appeal to the State Supreme Court for a discretionary review.
Castagna also says the city "has offered to release the animal to a secure facility, if Mr. Rabon would so desire."
Rabon, who insisted Word was not vicious, has balked at that suggestion in the past because the dog would likely be sent to a facility in far-away Utah. But Castagna now says no particular facility has been picked.
Guinness announced last September that Word had set an endurance record for condemned dog in captivity and sent Rabon a certificate to mark the occasion.
"There's hardly a day that goes by I don't think of Word and how I want to get him out of there," Rabon said.