City looking at vicious animal codes

Ryan Carter

CIVIC CENTER -- On the heels of a recent high-profile dog-mauling

trial in Los Angeles, city officials are looking into updating municipal

code to deal with vicious dogs in the city.

"We're still in the research mode, but it's certainly a possibility,"

Deputy City Atty. Jina Oh said of the proposal to deal with dogs that

attack humans and other animals.

Animal shelter officials said 20 to 35 reported dog-bite cases occur

in the city each year. Many of the cases end up in civil litigation,

Acting Burbank Animal Shelter Supt. Claudia Madrid said.

Changes in the municipal code could serve to levy more criminal

penalties against owners, she said.

Burbank dog owners can be cited for allowing an animal known to be

vicious to roam loose. The leash law requires dog owners to keep their

animals on a leash when on a street, in a park or other public space,

Madrid said.

A fresh look at the codes was prompted by the recent dog-mauling trial

in which a San Francisco couple was convicted for murder and manslaughter

because their dog killed a neighbor.

"It was a wake-up call to all cities, that they should be putting more

emphasis on this issue," Burbank City Manager Bud Ovrom said. "Neighbors

tolerate it, and my perception is that it's never been treated as a

criminal matter."

Ovrom said dog owners and their neighbors need to be better educated

on how to control dogs and what to do if a dog is too aggressive.

In a recent meeting, officials from the city, animal shelter and

Police Department discussed how to enhance response to vicious dogs. They

talked about additional training for animal control officers and better

documentation for dog bite incidents. A patrol officer now responds with

Animal Shelter officers to dog bite complaints, and detectives are

assigned for follow-up, Madrid said.

"In some cases, there are violations," Madrid said. "But in some

cases, it's making a mountain of a mole hill."

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