By: Supervisor Todd Spitzer
(SANTA ANA, CA) The Board of Supervisors, at its Sept. 17 meeting, passed the first reading of an ordinance modifying the definitions of a vicious or potentially dangerous dog. The ordinance also allows the Director of OC Animal Care to establish a website, accessible to the public, listing the address and photo of each dog that has been declared vicious or potentially dangerous.
The ordinance proposes the following definitions:
“A ‘potentially dangerous’ dog is defined as: (1) Any dog without provocation that, on (2) two separate occasions within a 36-month period, engages in any behavior that requires a defensive action by any person to prevent bodily injury to any human, domestic animal, horse or livestock, whether the person taking the defensive action and the dog are on off the property of the owner or custodian of the dog.
(2) Any dog which, without provocation, bites a person causing any injury less severe than a “severe” injury.” For the purposes of this section, severe injury means any physical injury to a human being that results in muscle tears, disfiguring lacerations, multiple bite wounds, or one of more broken or fractured bones, or with respect to which the victim receives multiple injuries or staples or corrective or cosmetic surgery.
(3) Any dog which, without provocation, has killed, seriously, bitten, or, in an aggressive manner, inflicted injury to, a domestic animal, horse or livestock.
(b) A ‘vicious dog’ means any of the following:
(1) Any dog that is used primarily or in part for the purpose of dog fighting or is training for fighting.
(2) Any dog which, without provocation, kills a human being, bites a human being inflicting severe injury or in an aggressive manner, otherwise inflicts injury to a human being, whether the person and the dog are on or off the property of the owner or custodian of the dog.”
The animal control director is currently authorized to have a dog destroyed under certain circumstances. Both Board Chairman Nelson and Supervisor Spitzer are adamant that such classified dogs be removed from the community.
Spitzer suggested amending the proposed ordinance so that those dogs deemed potentially dangerous or vicious should be presumptively destroyed, thereby requiring the owner and the director to have to justify, with specific evidence and findings, why the animal should not be put down and what action plan would be implemented to protect the public in the future.
Currently, many of the dogs impounded for being vicious or potentially dangerous are returned to their owners. Spitzer suggested the default for the County should be that dangerous dogs are killed, with the OC Animal Care Director having to justify giving the dog back to its owner.
“If a dog breaks bones or disfigures someone so badly they require surgery, I don’t want that dog anywhere in the County,” Spitzer said. “I think there needs to be a presumption that if a dog meets the definition of vicious or dangerous, that animal will be destroyed unless findings otherwise are made.”
In addition to vicious or potentially destructive dogs being listed on the website run by OC Animal Care, dog owners are required to take measures, including limiting the dog’s access to children and physically restraining the dog on and off the owner’s property.
“I don’t understand why anyone would want to have a vicious dog,” Spitzer said. “But assuming they do, the public has a right to know that they have it.”
Violations of the ordinance could result in a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.
A second reading for final adoption of the ordinance is scheduled to be considered at the Board meeting on Oct. 1.