Animal Care, Control Dept. to prepare law requiring pit bulls, Rottweilers to be spayed or neutered in unincorporated county areas

BY ANITA VARGHESE

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a motion Tuesday, January 31st, directing the County Department of Animal Care and Control to prepare an ordinance that requires owners of pit bulls and Rottweilers to spay or neuter their dogs.

The ordinance would affect dog owners in unincorporated areas of the county, including Marina del Rey.

Owners would be able to obtain a $500 exemption permit if their dogs are purebred, are registered with the American Kennel Club or other dog association, and can pass a behavior test.

The County Department of Animal Care and Control and the county offices of the chief counsel and the chief administrative officer are writing the ordinance, to be prepared by Wednesday, February 15th.

“To reduce this serious public safety threat and prevent future tragedies, this action will provide guidelines for responsible pet ownership and penalties for negligent or reckless owners,” said Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who presented the motion.

Antonovich represents the Antelope, San Fernando, and Santa Clarita Valleys.

On Monday, January 23rd, an 11-month-old girl from the Antelope Valley was attacked and seriously injured by a pit bull.

Antonovich said attacks by “aggressive dogs, predominantly pit bulls and Rottweiler breeds” have increased throughout Los Angeles County.

He hopes a new ordinance will reduce dog attacks through breeding restrictions and mandatory spay and neuter programs for specific breeds of dogs.

The ordinance would include stiff penalties for noncompliance.

Opponents of the ordinance urged supervisors not to single out pit bulls and Rottweilers, while relatives of victims mauled by dogs said more laws are necessary.

Opponents said aggressive dogs could be controlled if the county enforced existing laws and that if new laws are written, all dog breeds should be included.

“I have been attacked by cocker spaniels and Dalmatians as many times as other breeds,” said Jennifer Freilich, an instructor at a dog obedience school.

The County Department of Animal Care and Control was also ordered to increase enforcement, strengthen its penalties for irresponsible dog owners, and conduct sweeps to remove aggressive dogs from the streets.

State Senate Bill 861, signed into law last year, allows counties and cities to regulate specific dog breeds.

Authored by State Senator Jackie Speier, who represents San Francisco and San Mateo, the state law also requires local jurisdictions to report dog bite data to the State Public Health Veterinarian.

Los Angeles County and the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals supported the bill’s passage.

The California Veterinary Medical Association and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles opposed the bill.

Speier authored the bill after a 12-year-old boy from San Francisco was mauled to death by the family’s un-neutered pit bull.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom formed a city task force to assess the issue of dog attacks.

Task force members found that ten to 20 people in the nation die annually from dog bites and 66 people died nationally from pit bull attacks between 1978 and 1998.

Other findings are that:

n California leads the nation in fatal dog attacks, with 47 incidents between 1965 and 2001;

n the majority of dog bite incidents involve un-neutered male dogs that weigh more than 50 pounds;

n 94 percent of dog bites are unprovoked;

n 77 percent of dog bite injuries are caused by dogs known to the victim; and

n 70 percent of dog bites and fatal attacks involve children under age 12, followed by senior citizens.

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