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L.A. City Council Votes Money to Strengthen Leash-Law Enforcement

Times Staff Writer

In the wake of controversy over a city crackdown on dogs running loose at Laurel Canyon Park, the City Council voted Tuesday to beef up leash-law enforcement throughout Los Angeles.

The council voted 13-1 to add $78,780 to the proposed 1985-86 city budget to hire three more animal-control officers. The action will become final once the council and Mayor Tom Bradley approve the budget.

The resolution specifies that the added officers be used to enforce the ordinance prohibiting dogs from running loose off the owners’ property.

The action was requested by Councilwoman Joan Milke Flores, who complained that the two animal-control officers assigned to her Harbor district cannot handle all the complaints about stray dogs.

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Park Situation Not Discussed

The situation at Laurel Canyon Park, the park in the mountains above Studio City that has been the scene of confrontations between animal control officers and dog owners who let their pets run loose, was not discussed at the meeting.

But Councilman Joel Wachs, who has been criticized by dog owners for ordering the crackdown in the park, which is in his district, praised Robert Rush, general manager of the Department of Animal Regulation, for his aggressive efforts to enforce the leash law in general.

Rush said after the meeting that the problem appears to have diminished at Laurel Canyon Park. He said two officers who went to the park last Saturday did not see any loose dogs.

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Rush said the new personnel would bring the number of officers enforcing the leash law to 50 citywide. He said the new officers would be deployed throughout the city.

Rush said the added officers were needed to reduce a backlog of 12,000 complaints about stray dogs. Officers last year issued 2,000 citations, carrying fines of $46 each, for violations of the leash law, he said.

Bernardi Dissents

The lone dissenting vote on hiring the additional officers was cast by mid-San Fernando Valley Councilman Ernani Bernardi, who complained that the animal control department had done a poor job prosecuting leash-law violators. He was responding to a statement by Rush that officers do not have time to wait in court to testify in cases where dog owners challenge the citations.

The council action was supported by Arthur Margolis, a member of the city’s Animal Regulation Commission, an advisory panel, who has been critical of enforcement at Laurel Canyon Park.

“The department is understaffed and can use the resources,” he said. “I just wish that concern for enforcement of the (animal) cruelty laws could generate as much support as concern for the leash law.”


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