Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Lancaster approves mandatory sterilization of pit bulls and Rottweilers
10:20 AM, January 28, 2009
Lancaster city officials voted unanimously Tuesday to adopt an ordinance designed to discourage gangs by imposing penalties on the owners of dogs deemed "potentially dangerous" or "vicious."
The new law specifically targets two breeds of dog that officials say are favored by gang members: pit bulls and Rottweilers. When the law goes into effect in 30 days, it will require that all pit bulls, Rottweilers, and pit bull and Rottweiler mixes with "predominant physical characteristics" of those breeds be spayed or neutered. (Puppies under 4 months of age and dogs considered to be at high risk for surgical complications will be exempt from the spay/neuter requirement.) Our colleague Ann Simmons at the L.A. Now blog reports:
Opponents of the ordinance turned out in force at the council's meeting Tuesday night and argued that the new law could lead to racial profiling by law enforcement officials, who they said might unfairly accuse black or Latino males seen with a pit bull as a gang-bangers.
But Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris, who pushed for the new regulations, said he was confident that law enforcements officials could properly identify gang members.
Some critics suggested that Parris invite gang members to sit down and discuss the issue. But the mayor dismissed this idea.
"I have no desire to work with them," he said. "I have no desire to help them. The only thing I want to do is crush them and remove them from the community. ... The days of accommodating a gang member are over."
Under the new law, dogs who act aggressively "unprovoked" may be considered "potentially dangerous."
"Owners of ['potentially dangerous'] dogs would need to have the dog properly licensed, micro-chipped, and vaccinated at their cost prior to their release. Additional conditions could include: the owner being required to secure their property; proper muzzling and leash restraints of the dog; completion of approved dog obedience course training; spay or neutering; a fine of up to $500 for each offense; and costs of the hearing," according to a statement on the city of Lancaster's website.
Additionally, a dog may be deemed "vicious" if it has been trained for fighting or inflicts injury or death. "If so, the vicious dog could be destroyed if deemed a significant threat to the public health, safety and welfare," says the city of Lancaster's statement. "If the dog is not destroyed, the owner of the vicious dog would adhere to the same conditions of a potentially dangerous dog with more stringent requirements to secure the owner’s property and confine the vicious dog. Fines are up to $1,000 per offense. An owner of a vicious dog may also be prohibited from possessing any dog for up to three years