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Supes Back off Changing Vicious Dog Law

Local dog owners called the move "good news."

Supes Back off Changing Vicious Dog Law


City News Service

The Orange County Board of Supervisors today rejected a revised ordinance that would have further regulated vicious dogs.

After several dog owners criticized the proposed revisions in the county's ordinance, none of the supervisors moved to approve staff's recommended legislation.

The county will continue enforcing its current ordinance and abandon proposed changes, which would have defined dangerous dogs on a scale of 1-3. The most dangerous dogs, level 3, would be euthanized, Orange County Animal Care Director Ryan Drabek said.

The county's ordinance is the same as state law with two classifications -- potentially dangerous and vicious, Drabek said. There's nothing in the current ordinance that automatically mandates the euthanization of a dangerous dog.

Last year, the Board of Supervisors approved a change to the ordinance, cracking down on the ability of vicious dog owners to get another pet when a dangerous canine is taken away from them.

Ben Dunham of Laguna Niguel brought his pit bull service dog, Boss, to today's meeting to illustrate how tame and well-trained the breed can be. He “said the board's refusal to adopt the revisions was “good news.”

Dunham's dog was rescued from a dog-fighting operation four years ago, he said.

Several dog owners complained that the revised ordinance was too “breed-specific” and singled out pit bulls, but Drabek said that wasn't the case. Drabek himself owns a pit bull and a pit-bull mix, he said.

The dog owners said the revised ordinance was unfair, because it would have permanently labeled dogs rescued from fighting rings as vicious. But Drabek said state law already does that.

Dog owners still have “due process” under the current ordinance and would have under the amended law, Drabek said. They can appeal to an administrative hearing officer and, if necessary, to an Orange County Superior
Court judge.

Josh Liddy, a former Costa Mesa resident who lives in Pasadena, told the supervisors most dog owners lack the resources or know-how to appeal an adverse labeling of their pet.

The revised ordinance called for labeling troubled canines as Level 1, 2 and 3.

A Level 1 dog would be one that on two occasions during a 36-month period did something that put someone or another animal in a “defensive, protective or fleeing” position. A dog could have been categorized as Level 1 if it bit a person without provocation, leaving at most a minor injury.

A Level 1 dog could have graduated to the second level if the bad behavior persisted.

A Level 2 dog would have been one guilty of an unprovoked attack on four separate occasions, forcing someone or another animal to avoid injury. Level 2 dogs would also be defined as ones that cause a severe or substantial injury to a person or other animal.

Dogs used for fighting or trained to fight would have been considered Level 2.

A Level 3 dog would be one that killed someone or caused a severe injury such as maiming. Police or military dogs on the job would have been exempt.

A dog would have been labeled Level 3 only if the owner was convicted, Drabek said.

Supervisor John Moorlach suggested that the activists appeal to state lawmakers for a change in the dog-regulation legislation.

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