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O.C. may create Megan's Law-style website for vicious dogs

Laws and LegislationCrime, Law and Justice

Orange County may soon have a Megan’s Law-style website for dangerous dogs.

The website probably would list the addresses of homes where dogs deemed to be dangerous or vicious are being kept, along with a description of each animal and how it got into trouble in the first place.

“We know where dangerous sex offenders are living in our community,” county Supervisor Todd Spitzer said. “The public has the right to know where owners are harboring a dog declared vicious or dangerous.”

If county supervisors approve the proposal, the website would cover dogs being kept in the cities and unincorporated areas served by OC Animal Care, said Ryan Drabek, spokesman for the county agency.

“It’s important for residents to be educated on where dangerous animals live,” Drabek said. “When people go for walks, it’s good to know.”

Supervisors were set to take up the proposal Monday, but the item was postponed until December because county officials were still refining their definitions of “dangerous” and “vicious.” The county currently uses a state definition of the two terms when issuing citations.

Currently, the proposed ordinance defines a dangerous dog as one that has been cited twice for attacking in a three-year period or that, unprovoked, severely injures a person or kills an animal. It defines a vicious dog as one that was trained to fight or participated in fighting or that, unprovoked, severely injures or kills a person.

If a dangerous or vicious dog is kept at a home, the owner could be required to get $100,000 in liability insurance, sterilize the dog and post signs on the home identifying the dog as violent.

A dog could be euthanized if the director of OC Animal Care determines it is necessary for public safety, though Drabek said such determinations are rare.

Last year, there were 2,281 reports of dog bites in the area his agency covers, Drabek said. There were 264 potential dangerous dog investigations that year, and 66 of those dogs were euthanized.

Blythe Wheaton, executive director of the Pet Rescue Center, an organization based in Mission Viejo that helps rescue and rehabilitate dogs, doesn’t believe a map is the right way to go.

“It would just be creating a sense of unnecessary alarm,” Wheaton said. “Owners could be harassed, or trainers could refuse to work with their dog. It doesn’t create a supportive environment to allow the owner to help the animal if they’re going to be pinned on a list.”

In Texas, a state mandate required cities to create such maps, said Patricia Fraga, spokeswoman for Austin Animal Center.

The center has heard from people who use the map to take extra precautions for their pets and themselves, Fraga said.

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adolfo.flores@latimes.com

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