Change the course of breed specific proposal in Ventura County, California

In January, the Ventura County Animal Services Commission approved a mandatory spay/neuter proposal that would apply only to “pit bulls”. That proposal was sent to city governments and county leaders for consideration in coming weeks.

It appears there are many divisions among city leaders with respect to the proposal, and we may have an opportunity to change its course. The cities of Ventura, Oxnard and Simi Valley, California are scheduled to address the proposed ordinance by the end of March. In April, the commission will discuss the proposal again, and if a majority of cities in the county have approved it, the measure will go before the supervisors.

Regardless of your position on spaying and neutering of pets, it is important to remember that any law that applies to one breed or grouping of dogs involves the practice of breed profiling and is breed specific legislation. Breed specific MSN is fraught with the many problems associated with BSL, and opens the door for future additional breed restrictions.

Please contact the city council members of Ventura, Oxnard and Simi Valley and encourage them to seek a solution that does not single out one breed of dog. Suggested alternatives can be found here.

City of Ventura Mayor and City Council,,,,,,

City of Oxnard Mayor and City Council,,,,

City of Simi Valley Mayor and City Council,,,,

Pit bull spay proposal drawing mixed support among cities

•By Hannah Guzik Special to The Star
Ventura County Star
•Posted March 3, 2012

An ordinance proposing mandatory spaying and neutering of pit bull terriers countywide is drawing mixed support even as Ventura County Animal Shelter workers say the policy would reduce euthanasia rates.

The Ventura County Animal Services Commission approved the proposal in January, sending it to city governments and county leaders for consideration in coming weeks.

The commission hopes each city council and the a.inline_topic:hover { background-color: #EAEAEA; } Ventura County Board of Supervisors will adopt the ordinance. If the proposal doesn’t win approval across the board, it will be difficult to enforce, said Monica Nolan, animal services director at the shelter in Camarillo.

Nolan said the ordinance would reduce the county’s population of number of pit bull terriers, an overpopulated breed that is disproportionately euthanized.

“It’s not a breed ban ordinance,” she said. “The purpose of the ordinance is really to help us so that we don’t have to euthanize as many pit bulls. It’s one more tool in our toolbox.”

Shelter officials got the idea for the proposal from other California counties with mandatory spay-neuter ordinances for pit bull terriers, including San Bernardino, San Francisco and Sonoma counties, Nolan said.

The city councils’ shelter liaisons in Oxnard and Ventura tentatively support a spay-neuter ordinance, as does the a.inline_topic:hover { background-color: #EAEAEA; } Board of Supervisors liaison, although they said the proposed ordinance may need to be amended to better accommodate reputable dog breeders and owners of purebred dogs.

“What we need to do is to make sure that the animals are spayed and neutered,” said Ventura Councilman James Monahan, the city’s shelter liaison. “We’d like the shelter to be a no-kill facility, but when we have so many coming in, especially from Oxnard, there’s just nowhere else to deal with these stray animals.”

Meanwhile, the shelter liaison in Simi Valley, Councilwoman Barbra Williamson, said she does not support a spay-neuter ordinance because she believes it’s a case of government getting overly involved.

“From what I have read now and from what I have heard from professional dog breeders, I will not be supporting the ordinance at this point,” she said. “Once you put an ordinance like that into effect, there are a lot of people that are unfairly affected by it.”

Williamson said she’s concerned that a dog could be misidentified as a pit bull terrier and wrongfully spayed or neutered. Nolan said shelter officials are skilled at determining breeds of dogs and, under the ordinance, owners could contest breed designations before the procedure was done.

Williamson, however, said she’s concerned the appeal process might not work.

“Have you ever tried to appeal anything with a government agency?” she said. “There’s still a lot of controversy over whether they can even detect or determine what a pit bull breed is.”

The Ventura, Oxnard and Simi Valley city councils are scheduled to address the proposed ordinance by the end of March. In April, the commission will discuss the proposal again and if a majority of cities in the county have approved it, the measure will go before supervisors, Nolan said.

Supervisor a.inline_topic:hover { background-color: #EAEAEA; } Steve Bennett, board shelter liaison, said he supports the proposal.

“The animal services director’s proposed ordinance to require spay and neuter of pit bulls seems like the best chance we have to curb the pit bull overpopulation problem in Ventura County,” he said. “This type of ordinance has proved successful in other communities in reducing the number of unwanted pit bulls that must be euthanized.”

If the board approved the ordinance, it could become effective in late summer or early fall, Bennett said.

By far, Oxnard is the city contributing the most pit bull terriers to the shelter.

“Oxnard is the largest city, and we have to be accountable and our community has to be accountable,” said Oxnard Councilwoman Carmen Ramirez, the city’s shelter liaison. “I want to have a community dialogue about this.”

Ramirez said she hopes once the item is scheduled before the City Council, dog owners, breeders and other community members will attend the meeting to discuss the issue.

The shelter handled 1,992 bully-breed dogs from Oxnard between July 2008 and May 2011, and euthanized 1,176, according to a recent report prepared by Nolan.

During the same period, the shelter lodged 474 from Ventura, 377 from Simi Valley and 219 from Camarillo, and euthanized about half of them.

The shelter houses impounded animals from all areas of the county except Thousand Oaks, which partners with Los Angeles County Animal Care and Control.

Statistically, the three breeds commonly referred to as pit bulls make up 21 percent of dogs in the Ventura County shelter and 58 percent are euthanized. The shelter last year euthanized 812 dogs considered pit bull breeds.

Although the ordinance would exclude registered breeders and purebred dogs, American Staffordshire terrier breeder Betty Michl is troubled by the proposed policy.

“There are enough laws on the books already,” Michl said. “Ninety percent of these dog owners are law-abiding citizens. It’s only 10 percent that are the problem, that like to fight their dogs or game their dogs.”

Michl, who also is an American Kennel Club judge, said the Ventura County Dog Fanciers Association, of which she is a member, also opposes the ordinance.

The Oxnard resident said the county doesn’t need another law to address problem dogs but needs to enforce the existing leash laws and no-roaming laws that would target irresponsible pit bull terrier owners.

“Many of my friends want to have their dogs intact for breeding,” she said. “This would penalize the good owners and wouldn’t target the people they need to target.

Although the mandatory spay-neuter policy would apply to all pit bull breeds, officials mainly would ticket owners whose dogs end up in the shelter instead of proactively searching for unaltered dogs, Nolan said.”We’re not going to go knocking on people’s doors,” she said. “If we find the dog loose or if we come across the dog, that’s when we would determine whether it’s unaltered.”

Under the shelter’s proposal, owners of unaltered bully-breed dogs would be given a $100 ticket. If they still refused to spay or neuter their dogs, later fines could be as high as $500.

The shelter has tried to solve the overpopulation problem through two other programs but has been largely unsuccessful. Owners picking up their pit bulls from the shelter can opt to have their dogs spayed or neutered for free. The shelter also halves the usual $125 adoption fee for people who take home bully-breed dogs.

Only 12 percent of 306 bully-breed dog owners opted for the free spay-neuter program for impounded dogs last year, Nolan said. Meanwhile, only 8 percent of the shelter’s 1,471 such dogs were adopted in 2011.

“It’s really a sad thing,” Nolan said. “Everybody wants us to be no-kill, but we can’t be no-kill if nobody will adopt these dogs.”


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