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Biting Back at Pit Bulls

The teeth in Orange County’s animal-control ordinances may never be a match for those of pit bullterriers, but county officials are trying.

Recent pit-bull episodes have reminded people of just how aggressive the breed is, how brutal its bite can be and how much strengthening most existing animal-control ordinances need in order to give the public better protection. The same holds true for other breeds that may be less bloodthirsty than the pit bull but that bite more often.

The county Animal Control Department, which serves the unincorporated area and 17 of the county’s 26 cities that contract for its service, wants to amend the county’s antiquated existing control law and asked for ideas at a recent meeting that included the Orange County Animal Shelter, dog owners, city officials and private citizens.

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One basic suggestion was a campaign to impress on dog owners their responsibility for their pets. Properly training dangerous dogs and keeping them restrained and muzzled would go a long way toward preventing attacks. Insurance liability, as required in Los Angeles, also was proposed.

Other ideas included identifying dogs that warrant it as “vicious” before they attack, marking dangerous dogs with bright yellow collars and establishing a data system that would keep track of the biting record of menacing dogs.

Newport Beach is considering going even further. It may become the first city to ban any additions to the existing pit-bull population--a law that probably would be challenged because it would single out one breed and ignore other “biting” breeds.

To be effective, animal-control ordinances must do precisely what their name implies: Control animals and remove those that threaten public safety before they attack, not after. With pit bulls, the traditional concept that an animal is entitled to one bite is just too dangerous.


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