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Crackdown on Barking and Vicious Animals : Committee Acts to Tighten Leash Laws

Two proposals to toughen Los Angeles’ leash laws were approved Wednesday by a City Council committee.

The three-member Police, Fire and Public Safety Committee voted unanimously to recommend the measures, which would permit the city to revoke the licenses for loud, barking dogs and vicious, biting dogs. The proposals are expected to be presented to the City Council early in March.

Calls for tougher leash laws grew out of the mauling of two small children by an unleashed pit bull terrier in 1985 in Sylmar. Debate over the proposals later was intensified by a dispute between animal-control officers and dog owners who frequent Laurel Canyon Park in the Santa Monica Mountains above Studio City.

Dog owners have contended that the leash-law proposals are an attempt to raise the stakes in the Animal Regulation Department’s yearlong crackdown on people who let their dogs run free in the park.

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Under existing law, dogs that bite people are impounded for one day, and a dog owner’s violations of leash laws are punishable by $46 fines.

Under the new measures, most license revocations would come after three complaints and two hearings before the city Animal Regulation Department. But the revocation process could begin immediately if animal-control officials consider an attack to be particularly severe.

Dog owners could appeal revocations before an independent three-member board appointed by the City Council president. If the dog owner lost the appeal, he could be ordered to move the animal outside city limits, find a new home for it or surrender it to animal-control officers, who would try to find it a new home.

Dog owners who resist the city at that point could face misdemeanor charges, punishable by up to six months in jail, and a $1,000 fine for failing to have a licensed dog.

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The city also could have the dog killed if a new home could not be found, or if the dog were too vicious to be adopted.

About 8,200 animal bites a year are reported in the city, most involving dogs, and an estimated 17,000 bites go unreported, according to the city Department of Animal Regulation.


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