Supervisors unanimously pass pit bull ordinance

PALM DESERT, Calif. - Citing public safety concerns and the need to bring the breed's population down, Riverside County supervisors approved an ordinance mandating that, with only a few exceptions, pit bull dogs older than four months in unincorporated communities be sterilized. 

``I've seen scores and scores of deaths and maimings of individuals of all ages -- all from pit bull attacks,'' said Supervisor John Tavaglione, who joined his colleagues in a 5-0 vote to enact the ordinance following nearly two hours of public testimony. ``A 2-year-old boy was pulled out of his bedroom by two or three dogs and mauled to death. His face was ripped off. An 8-year-old boy in Corona was out riding his bicycle recently and was attacked by two pit bulls that dug their way out of their owner's yard. That child is still in the hospital,'' Tavaglione said. 

The county department of Animal Services says pitbulls make up 20% of impounded dogs and 30% of animals euthanized in the county. The ordinance is geared to lower those numbers.  "Maybe more people will take responsibility for their dogs," said Lieutenant Luis Rosa from Animal Services.  "Keeping them in their yard, instead of having them breed and breed." 

There are five exemptions under the new ordinance: 

  --the dog belongs to a registered breeder;

   -- is trained for law enforcement duties;

   -- is an ``assistance dog'' for a disabled person;

   -- has been certified by a veterinarian as having a health defect that sterilization          would aggravate; or

   -- is in training and licensed in another county.

There is some controversy surrounding the ordinance.  Golaunda Zoet from "Loving All Animals" believes its unfair to single out the pit bull.  "I don't think we should restrict this ordinance to strictly pit bulls," said Zoet.  "You've got rottweilers that are just as strong and just as big."

Zoet agrees the problem stems from irresponsible dog owners, but isn't okay with how this is portraying the dog.  "They are showcasing pit bulls in a very negative way," said Zoet.  "It doesn't have to be." 

She also fears the cost of sterilization could create a problem for owners.  She thinks the county should do more to assist in the services.  "If we're going to ask our community, demand our community do this, then we need to help with another solution." 

The ordinance takes effect in 30 days, those who don't comply face fines. 

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