Dog owners could face up to six months in jail if their pets bite or threaten any person or animal, according to a proposed ordinance designed to prevent the kind of vicious dog attacks that have occurred throughout the state.
But the version recommended by the City Council's Legislation Committee on Wednesday did not include a controversial provision that would have required owners to obtain liability insurance for their vicious dogs.
Instead, the committee agreed to strengthen the city's current dog ordinance to include, among other things, holding dog owners criminally liable for attacks. Under the proposal, allowing a dog to bite a human or another animal would be a misdemeanor and the dog owner would be subject to a maximum $500 fine and a six-month jail term, said Councilman Evan Anderson Braude, who heads the legislation committee.
The proposed ordinance is expected to be considered by the full council next month.
The committee also plans to recommend that the council change the way a vicious dog is handled. Under the current ordinance, the animal is not destroyed unless it attacks a second time. Under the proposed revision, the animal could be destroyed after its first attack following a formal hearing with the superintendent of animal control, Braude said.
The committee also is recommending that the council:
Require owners of guard dogs and sentry dogs to obtain special permits.
Triple the $5 penalty assessed dog owners who fail to renew their pets' license on time.
Order pet stores to register with the city all dogs they sell.
Long Beach has not had serious problems with vicious dogs, according to city officials. Since the city adopted a dangerous-dog ordinance in 1984, the animal control division has handled five such cases, according to city health officer Rugmini Shah. Three of the five dogs were destroyed, one no longer lives in the city and the fifth has not caused further problems, she said.
The issue resurfaced last year when Vice Mayor Warren Harwood asked his colleagues to review the current ordinance.
Braude said, "We didn't want to wait around for anyone to get bitten to do something."