As a door-to-door, meet-the-people candidate, Councilman Warren Harwood has had his share of unfriendly encounters with dogs. More than once, Harwood said, he has had to dash behind a fence or retreat into his car.
An unsuspecting child may not be as lucky, Harwood said. In the wake of the fatal mauling this month of a 2 1/2-year-old boy in Morgan Hill, Calif., the councilman wants the city to explore whether a similar danger exists in Long Beach and, if so, what can be done about it.
Harwood's colleagues agreed Tuesday, coming up with a variety of ideas that that included banning guard dogs for anyone but the Police Department.
Many on the council had seen television broadcasts the night before of a pit bull in the Glassell Park section of Los Angeles attacking a city animal control officer, leaving her hands and chest bloody.
"It was just a horrifying sight," said Harwood, who earlier on Monday had predicted that "there are incidents just waiting to happen."
Tighter Leash Law
In sending the issue Tuesday night to the city manager for study, Harwood tossed out several recommendations that he particularly wants considered. They include whether the city should increase fines for irresponsible dog owners and whether the local leash law could be toughened.
In an interview before the meeting, Harwood said he would like the city to establish a citizens' commission to advise the council and the Health Department on animal-related matters.
Councilwoman Jan Hall suggested that any proposals incorporate sanctions against animals that attack other animals. Often, she said, dogs that attack other animals will attack children. "That seems to be part of the pattern," Hall said.
Councilman Wallace Edgerton suggested reviewing whether guard dogs are safe.
"These dogs will kill you or tear you apart," Edgerton said. "Perhaps dogs shouldn't be trained that way, unless they're police dogs."
Pit Bull Attacks
In recent months, there have been numerous reports of pit bull attacks, bringing calls for stricter animal-control laws, especially for pit bulls.
In the Glassell Park attack, the animal control officer was taken to Glendale Memorial Hospital with wounds to the hands, wrists and chest. She had been investigating a report that the same dog had attacked a neighbor and his 7-year-old daughter the evening before.
Last week, a police detective serving a warrant in a Highland Park neighborhood was charged by a pit bull that had broken its chain. Residents cheered when the detective shot the dog, which was known for chasing children.
After the June 13 attack on toddler James Soto in Morgan Hill, owners of seven pit bulls took their pets to the Santa Clara County Humane Society asking that they be destroyed.
Harwood called the boy's death a "troublesome, frightening story" and said he would like to see recommendations "aimed at making our community safer."
Noting that candidates do their share of legwork in unknown territory, Harwood quipped, "This might even help a few politicians as well."