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Animal Rights

L.A. County to Bypass Judge, Declare Dogs 'Vicious' for Minor Offenses Like Chasing or Causing Heart Attacks

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Wed, Jul 27, 2011 at 8:30 AM

click to enlarge Who, me? Vicious?
  • Who, me? Vicious?
Update: The ordinance is a done deal -- unanimously approved by the Board of Supervisors. According to City News Service, "one attorney who has defended the owners of allegedly vicious dogs says the new ordinance could mean a death sentence for exuberant puppies."

Originally posted July 19 at 3:25 p.m.

In an effort to save L.A. County court costs -- and protect the public from rogue domestic beasts, at once! -- the Board of Supervisors has voted to give Department of Animal Care and Control officers the power to declare dogs "vicious." Once that declaration is made, an animal can be, at best, forced to wear a bright yellow collar (sort of like a Megan's Law sex-offender listing, for dogs), and at worst, confined, muzzled or euthanized.

City News Service reports that pet owners will then have five days to contest the "vicious" tag in court.

"There doesn't necessarily have to be a bite," Marcia Mayeda, director of Animal Control, told CBS LA.

"If a dog's charging at you down the street and you jump on top of a car to get out of the way, that's a potentially dangerous dog."

Great for cat people. Not so great for owners of dogs with sporadic anger issues (like Dr. Phil!), animal-rights activists and personal-freedom activists in general.

City News explains how animal-control officers will now be responsible for judge-like duties, to a somewhat concerning extent:

The ordinance allows hearing officers to consider prior attacks in another jurisdiction in making that determination. It also expands the definition of a severe injury to include not just bites, cuts or fractures caused directly by a dog, but also, for example, a heart attack suffered as a result of a dog's aggression.

In other words, it's not just the spike-collared, street-credded Rottweilers of "Dog Wars" that could end up behind bars (or under the needle), at the mercy of any old Animal Control officer, with the new ordinance in place.

A final administrative vote remains, but all four supervisors present at the meeting today voted "yes," so approval is highly probable. We've contacted Animal Control for comment.

[@simone_electra/swilson@laweekly.com]

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