Riverside, CA passes breed specific MSN ordinance

After a vote by the city council on October 22, 2013, Riverside, California passed an ordinance requiring owners of pit bulls and pit bull mixes to spay or neuter their dogs.  This comes on the heels of an ordinance unanimously passed by the Riverside County Supervisors on October 8, 2013 requiring all pit bull-type dogs older than four months in unincorporated areas of the county to be sterilized.  Much like the county ordinance, the city’s new rules include exceptions for registered breeders, dogs too sick to be sterilized, and law enforcement animals.

The city of Riverside already had a rule requiring most dogs to be “fixed,” but according to city officials, that ordinance is “mainly enforced” when a pet owner is cited for some other infraction, such as a dog running loose or failure to get a pet license.

The new pit bull rule, however, will be actively enforced by Riverside County animal control, whom the city contracts with. While it has been determined WHO is charged with “enforcement” of the ordinance, the council was unable to answer the question of exactly HOW a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance is “actively enforced.”

This is, of course, the key problem with any mandatory spay/neuter law.

Supporters of the proposed ordinance presented statistics indicating pit bulls and their mixes make up 20% of the dogs in the county shelter, and 30% of the dogs that get euthanized. They argued that the new rule would keep people and animals safer and reduce the number of pit bulls that ended up in the shelter.  In the same breath, they argued that the new ordinance would not keep anyone from owning or breeding pit bulls.

Which is it?

Surely if reckless and irresponsible ownership and breeding practices are an issue, wouldn’t it make sense for officials to focus on those specific problems with targeted education and stepped up enforcement and fines for infractions of the current law rather than impose a discriminatory and invasive law on all owners of a particular grouping of dogs…the responsible and irresponsible alike?

With Riverside County’s largest city now following suit and passing a breed specific ordinance, Riverside County officials hope more cities will consider adopting their own version of the County’s spay/neuter requirement for pit bulls.

In an interview with KNX1070, Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone advised that the County’s goal is to “pass the ordinance in the remaining twenty-eight cities in the county” because pit bulls are “bred to be dangerous.”

As the experts have opined, Mr. Stone, no breed of dog is born dangerous.  Dangerous dogs, regardless of breed, are created by negligent, careless, abusive and  irresponsible owners.

Simply put, problem dogs are the result of problem dog owners.

Until you teach people how to be responsible dog owners and crack down on and penalize them heavily for their irresponsible and reckless actions, Riverside will continue to experience animal control issues. Rather than focus on the cause of the problem, Riverside chose to focus on a resulting effect.

I know there are some who don’t take issue with mandatory spay/neuter laws and, as a rescuer, I get that.  But here’s the problem…

Breed specific legislation (BSL) comes in varying forms, and we can’t pick and choose to fight it when it happens to promote something we would otherwise support (such as spaying and neutering).  BSL is discriminatory, and it unfairly targets and stigmatizes a specific breed of dog based on misrepresented “statistics” and cherry-picked information.

While I personally support spaying/neutering of pets, responsible owners, regardless of their breed of choice, should have the ability to make that choice on their own.  More importantly, breed specific mandatory spay/neuter laws are unenforceable and succeed only in branding a specific breed as “bad,” “dangerous,” or otherwise needing special regulation.

So I have to ask, what’s the end game for the Riverside city and county officials in passing these ordinances, other than the obvious —  ensuring ‘pit bulls’ are stigmatized, singled out, and regulated  with the ultimate goal of breed eradication, and as an advocate and lover of this breed, that’s just something I cannot support.

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