Ellen Taft, Seattle’s Dogged Dog Watchdog, Calls for a Boycott to Protest Unlicensed Pets

This isn’t Taft’s first rodeo.

Ellen Taft says Seattle’s dog policy reminds her “French aristocracy in the ancient régime.”

Ellen Taft says Seattle’s dog policy reminds her “French aristocracy in the ancient régime.”

Ellen Taft, the dogged dog watchdog who in the past has called for a ban on pit bulls and blown the whistle on pet-friendly restaurants, is now calling for a boycott on all Seattle licenses to protest the lack of enforcement on unlicensed pets in the city.

Noting widely cited figures that only about 20 percent of dogs in Seattle are licensed, Taft argues that it makes no sense for anyone to pay fees to the city until it gets serious about enforcing pet rules. Taft says she’s done all she can to get the city on board before going the boycott route.

“I sent letters to the mayor, registered letters to the mayor, the city council, saying there’s this problem,” she says. “They’ve done nothing.”

This is not a new cause for Taft, as she’ll tell you.

“McGinn, before he was elected mayor, I briefed him on this as I handed him a check. Then, every time he was on NPR, I called in and brought it up, and he’d say, ‘Oh, I’ve never heard about that.’” She says she called in twice. She says she called into NPR when Mayor Greg Nickels was on as well, and got cut off.

Taft argues the lack of licensing results in taxpayers subsidizing pet ownership, which she calls “a first-world luxury.”

“It reminds me of the French aristocracy in the ancient régime, their luxuries were subsidized at the expense of the peasantry and middle classes, so that they would support the absolute monarchy.”

Whoa.

Were there 100 percent compliance, pet licenses would actually produce a budget surplus, which could go to things like a free spay-and-neuter clinic, Taft says. Capitol Hill Times, citing Seattle Animal Shelter, reported earlier this month that 43,645 of the 153,000 dogs living in Seattle are licensed, and that “licensing the more than 100,000 unlicensed dogs would earn the city approximately $2.2 million annually.”

Taft says the New Year is a perfect time for a boycott, since that’s when many businesses will be paying their business fees to the city—fees that will increase dramatically next year thanks to a plan approved in July to pay for more police officers.

“Mayor Murray wants to increase business licenses to raise money, but won’t go after the uncollected revenue, of pet owners,” Taft says in a press release announcing her plan.

The city hasn’t been totally inactive on the point of unlicensed dogs. Earlier this year, the Parks Department tapped two staffers to enforce dog rules in parks, which included making sure dog owners picked up poop but also licensed their pets.

Meanwhile, King County has been pulling dog-food purchase data from grocery stores in hopes of finding possible scofflaws.

But Taft isn’t satisfied. She says the city could take true action, such as impounding unlicensed dogs for a week and making the owner pay for it, or banning people from owning any future pets if they are caught with an unlicensed dog. She even suggests that the state start taxing dog food to create a dedicated fund for animal services.

“People know they don’t have to do it. They get away with it too easily,” she says.


Talk to us

Please share your story tips by emailing editor@seattleweekly.com.

More in News & Comment

Freshwater variety of kokanee salmon from Lake Sammamish. File photo
Encouraging numbers for kokanee salmon spawn count

Lake Sammamish kokanee aren’t out of the woods by any stretch, but… Continue reading

Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance
Puget Sound renters will need housing assistance

Nonprofits, activists are expecting greater need as workers are laid off.

In this file photo, Tayshon Cottrell dons his graduation cap and gown, along with a face mask reading: “Wear it! Save America” at Todd Beamer High School’s virtual graduation walk recording on May 20, 2020, in Federal Way. Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing
Law gives Washington high school seniors leeway to graduate

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill that can waive some requirements for students who were on track before the pandemic.

File photo
Study shows Washingtonians exceeded ‘heavy drinking’ threshold in 2020

The survey suggests Washingtonians drank more than 17 alcoholic beverages a week on average.

Mercer Island School District first-graders returned to in-person classes on Jan. 19, 2021. Here, Northwood Elementary School students head into the building. Photo courtesy of the Mercer Island School District
Governor: Educators are now eligible for coronavirus vaccine

“This should give educators more confidence,” Jay Inslee said. Other frontline workers could soon be next.

Malden, after a wildfire burned down 80% of the town’s buildings in Eastern Washington. Courtesy photo
DNR commissioner seeks $125 million to fight wildfires

In Washington state last September, some 600,000 acres burned within 72 hours.

Washington State Supreme Court Justices (back row, L-R) Raquel Montoya-Lewis, Sheryl Gordon McCloud, Mary I. Yu, G. Helen Whitener, (front row, L-R) Susan Owens, Charles W. Johnson, Steven C. Gonzalez, Barbara A. Madsen and Debra L. Stephens.
Justices strike down Washington state drug possession law

Police must stop arresting people for simple possession.

In Phase 2 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan, which was announced Jan. 28, restaurants can reopen at a maximum 25% capacity and a limit of six people per table. Inslee recently announced all counties will be staying in Phase 2 of the state’s reopening plan for the next several weeks. Pictured: People enjoy outdoor dining last summer in downtown Kent. Courtesy photo
Inslee: All of Washington to stay in Phase 2 for a few weeks

The governor issued a weekslong pause on regions moving backward, but has yet to outline a Phase 3.

Entrance to the Tukwila Library branch of the King County Library System. File photo
King County libraries will reopen in some cities for in-person services

Fall City, Kent libraries among six selected for partial reopening.

Most Read