The amendments to provisions of Title 10 governing "potentially dangerous dogs" and "vicious dogs," as proposed by the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control, are misguided and unfair. At a time when Los Angeles County residents are demanding reforms that will lead to LESS killing of animals at County shelters, the Department of Animal Control is pushing an amendment that will result in MORE unwarranted killing.
The new definitions will cause innocent dogs to be at risk of being labeled potentially dangerous or even vicious, the administrative hearing procedure will be a mockery because the "judges" (animal control officers) will not be neutral, and few people will have a real opportunity to appeal to a court because of the outrageously short time provided for filing an appeal (just five days, which is not nearly enough for regular people unfamiliar with the court system to figure out how to pursue an appeal or find a lawyer to assist them).
There is no valid reason for the proposed amendment. The Department of Animal Control has presented no evidence that the present system is inadequate to deal with dogs who truly are potentially dangerous or vicious, leaving the public at risk of harm from such animals. The Department’s only justification is to save itself the cost of providing a fair process, at the expense of County residents, most of whom consider their dogs members of their family.
A dog unfairly labeled potentially dangerous later can be deemed vicious based on a lower threshold, making that dog potentially subject to a death sentence. When placing a life at risk, particularly a life that is part of someone's family, basic fairness requires a neutral arbiter or at least sufficient time to appeal to a neutral arbiter. The proposed amendment provides neither.
Moreover, Animal Control officers are not qualified nor do they have the time to act as hearing officers. They have no legal training, and with current deficiencies in staffing, they are not even performing their present duties well, as evidenced by the fact that people visiting shelters for the purpose of adopting animals do not receive proper assistance, impounded animals are “lost,” disease epidemics are common, and animals continue to be kept in filthy kennels full of feces and urine.
The Department of Animal Control should be focusing on reforming itself to meet its state mandate to reduce shelter killing of animals, instead of wasting time fixing problems that don’t exist to make it easier for the Department to do more killing.
Residents of Los Angeles County are encouraged to attend the public hearing on this amendment that will take place on Tuesday, July 26, 2011 at 9:00 a.m. and to request to address the Board. The address for the hearing is:
Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration
500 West Temple Street
Board Hearing Room 381B
Los Angeles, CA 90012
The amendment appears as Item No. 18 on the Board Agenda for July 26, 2011.