Move to regulate pit bulls throughout Riverside County, CA hits a roadblock

A proposal to mandate the sterilization of pit bull dogs in Indio, California died at Wednesday’s City Council meeting after council members opted not to take the item up for a formal vote.

The ordinance was brought to the table by Mayor Michael Wilson, who touted statistics provided by Riverside County which relate to the county as a whole, and are not relevant to Indio specifically.

Council members expressed concern with respect to the severe monetary penalties already in place for dog owners who do not comply with the current law, and the belief that further regulation and expense would only compound the city’s problems by creating more stray animals.  They felt that residents would simply abandon their animals due to their financial inability to comply with the law.

Accordingly, the proposal received no support from council members, and was tabled.

This past October, Riverside County supervisors passed an ordinance that requires the sterilization of all pit bulls over the age of four months, citing public safety and a desire to limit the population. The ordinance applies to the unincorporated ares of the county.   However, county officials expressed their intention to promote the ordinance in order to ensure ALL the cities within the county adopted it as their own.

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.”

The county’s ordinance doesn’t define what a “pit bull” is but, instead, leaves breed identification to the subjective judgment of animal control officers.

The Lake Elsinore, CA city council has also been debating a mandatory spay/neuter law for pit bulls based on Riverside County’s ordinance.  The initial vote on the proposal was passed by the city council on March 11, 2014.  During that meeting, the Riverside County’s chief veterinarian, Allan Drusys, described the procedure to identify pit bulls as follows:

“My staff, including Rob Miller [the director of Riverside County Animal Control], think identifying pit bulls is kinda like pornography. Its difficult to describe, but people seem to be able to identify it when they see it.”

At their meeting on March 25, Lake Elsinore council members advised that since the introduction of the proposal, they had met with animal welfare representatives and members of the public, and had also reviewed educational materials received related to the problems associated with breed specific regulations, including the difficulty of identifying pit bulls, as well as statistics that reflect mandatory spay/neuter laws actually increase shelter intake..

The mayor, along with the majority of the council, expressed an interest in a spay/neuter ordinance that would apply to ALL dogs, and not specifically target “pit bulls. ”  In addition, they agreed that their goal is to raise adoption rates at the shelter and ultimately get away from euthanizing shelter animals, and they believed there was not a plan in place to address the city’s issues with pet overpopulation.

Ultimately, the council decided to put the issue off until their first meeting in May.  The options currently under consideration include (1) falling in line with Riverside County and adopting the mandatory spay/neuter ordinance specifically for pit bulls and (2) an ordinance that would require all dogs to be spayed or neutered.

Please continue to reach out to the Lake Elsinore officials and encourage them to focus on their stated goal of decreasing the number of animals in the shelter which can be achieved by offering low cost or free spay/neuter services for the community, as well as programs to educate residents on responsible pet ownership.

Mayor and City Council,,,,

Lake Elsinore City Hall
130 South  Main St.
Lake Elsinore, CA 92530
Phone: (951) 674-3124
Fax: (951) 674-2392


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