Riverside County supervisors order pit bull sterilizations

Riverside County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to order that pit bulls be spayed or neutered, with officials saying it would help stem a threat to public safety highlighted by recent attacks and reduce the number of dogs euthanized by county shelters.

The mandate applies only to unincorporated parts of the county, but supervisors said they hoped the ordinance would serve as a model for cities in the county and throughout the region.

“I’ve been told by people they’re afraid to walk their own pet dogs through their neighborhood, or mothers afraid to walk their children in strollers through their neighborhood,” said John Tavaglione, a county supervisor. “It’s time to say enough is enough.... I’m tired of seeing innocent people hurt.”

The ordinance prohibits residents of unincorporated areas from owning pit bulls older than 4 months that haven’t been spayed or neutered. The ordinance does allow exceptions for animals owned by registered breeders, used by law enforcement or that have been cleared by a veterinarian because of a specific health reason.


In the meeting, officials also discussed offering an exemption for show dogs.

County animal control officials told supervisors that pit bulls account for 20% of dogs in the shelter and 30% of dogs euthanized in the county. A pit bull isn’t a breed but a collection of breeds that includes the Staffordshire bull terrier, American pit bull terrier and American Stafford terrier. The mandate applies to dogs mixed with those breeds.

The ordinance faced vocal opposition from pit bull supporters, who say the animals have been unfairly maligned -- the victim of media sensationalism. They said the dogs aren’t as vicious as they’re portrayed; they said the animals had a reputation as “nanny dogs” and told stories of them as friendly, even-tempered pets.

Critics of the ordinance also said it was inappropriate to target a specific breed.

“It makes all our dogs guilty until proven innocent,” said Josh Liddy, a pit bull advocate.

Jackie Ficarotta, of Colton, said she’s had dogs dumped near her home and that her cat was killed by a stray dog. The problem, in her view, was bigger than pit bulls.

“These dogs are running lose,” she said.

“That should be for every dog, including Chihuahuas,” she said of the ordinance. “Something has to be done about the people who own these animals. They’re irresponsible people. They don’t care.”


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