Impounding trouble in your own back yard

Imagine a pair of ferocious untrained pit bulls on the loose, suddenly free from the backyard confines of their careless owner and threatening a quiet Auburn neighborhood.

Imagine a pair of ferocious untrained pit bulls on the loose, suddenly free from the backyard confines of their careless owner and threatening a quiet Auburn neighborhood.

It happened Monday afternoon, and it stirred the anxieties of a few concerned families.

“It ran up to me,” said one neighbor, who spotted one of the at-large dogs while taking out her trash. “Fortunately, the chain-link gate was closed. That dog was barking at me. It definitely was vicious.”

Another neighbor added, “You know, I have kids … and some of us are responsible for our own good dogs … But the sight of those two dogs running around scared me absolutely to death.”

As good neighbors do, they called it in. A series of emergency calls alerted Tom Harris, the resident animal control officer, who responded swiftly.

Using durable catch poles, quick agility and good instinct, Harris battled but eventually corralled the two dogs. With Auburn police serving as backup, the fight was intense but successful.

Who said impoundment is an easy job?

“One look at them and you can just tell they were trouble,” said Harris, a King County Animal Control officer with 28 years of experience who is contracted to the City of Auburn in a year-long pilot program.

“Although it was very high risk, I felt pretty much in control. And once it was done, I felt confident we did everything correctly.

“Everything went our way.”

But, as Harris well knows, it could have gone differently, perhaps tragically, if not for a call for help. Conscientious neighbors feared possible canine chaos a few blocks away on 15th Street Southeast. The dogs barked incessantly.

Then one afternoon, it happened. They escaped.

And Harris went to work.

He chased the dogs back into their own yard and blocked the gate, their escape route, with his vehicle.

At one time, he had both dogs on the ends of poles. He cornered and impounded a lactating female, who was protecting her 10 pups in the back yard, before going afterthe male. After a lengthy muscle-tussle, Harris pulled the male dog free after it had attached its clenched jaws onto a chain-link fence.

“What he did was pretty damn heroic,” said one woman, who witnessed the episode.

“He doesn’t get enough recognition for what he does. He’s a pretty tough guy.”

Another woman added, “What he did was great, and I left a message to thank him.”

The unlicensed dogs are impounded, the family of 12 together, in the Kent facility. The owner faces consequences. An investigation continues. The neighborhood is safer.

And Harris goes about doing his job, knowing the summer promises to bring more frequent calls.

Tackling dangerous animals is his business, and Harris has years of stitched-up bites to prove it.

And growing Auburn is no longer a sleepy little town with a friendly Lab on every street.

“This was one of those classic stories,” Harris said. “It could have been a different outcome to the story.”

This time, it wasn’t. Thank your good neighbor for that.

Mark Klaas can be reached at 253-833-0218, ext. 5050, or

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