Lake Elsinore, CA: Animal control ordinance back on council agenda 5/13/14

The city council of Lake Elsinore, California held a first reading on an ordinance regulating the ownership of “pit bulls” on March 11, 2014. The proposal was modeled after Riverside County’s ordinance which was passed in October, and would require all pit bull-type dogs to be sterilized by the age of four months.

Speaking in support of the proposal was the chief veterinarian of Riverside County who actually likened the “procedure” of identifying pit bull dogs to be “kinda like pornography…you know it when you see it.”   In addition to that highly technical information, a staff report written by Lake Elsinore’s city manager made reference to the “disproportionately high number of unwanted “pit bulls” in Riverside County, as well as the determination made by the Department of Animal Services for Riverside County that “Pit Bull and Pit Bull mixes significantly impact the health and safety of residents and their pets.”  The same report also made reference to an alleged pit bull attack that happened “near” the city.

The ordinance received preliminary approval despite the basis of the proposal to target pit bulls in Lake Elsinore relies solely on information, statistics and events that do not apply to or did not take place within Lake Elsinore, but rather, are related specifically to Riverside County as a whole.

A second vote on the proposal was expected on March 25, 2014, but during that meeting, there was substantial discussion regarding whether the city should require mandatory sterilization of pit bull-type dogs only or if all breeds of dogs should fall under a mandatory sterilization ordinance.  Council members also advised that since the proposal’s introduction, they had met with animal welfare representatives and members of the public, and reviewed educational materials 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, directly contradicting a stated goal of the council to reduce shelter intake.

Ultimately, city officials put off any action until their first council meeting in May, and the issue is back on the agenda tomorrow, Tuesday, May 13, 2014.

In the most recent Staff Report drafted by the city manager which is attached to the agenda, a determination was made to allow the city time to coordinate with regional agencies to determine what, if any, measures the city could take to address their primary goals of reducing overpopulation and saving the lives of animals.  To that end, the Southwest Communities Financing Authority Board approved a Regional Coordinated Marketing Program which would promote and develop incentives encouraging responsible pet ownership measures such as licensing, spay or neutering and micro-chipping.  The plan also includes reduced license fees to encourage greater compliance in regards to licensing of pets.

Accordingly, city staff is now recommending adoption of the marketing program and delaying any future action in regard to ordinance changes to allow adequate time to implement these new measures and evaluate their effectiveness.  An initial review of the efforts would be conducted in December.

However, in the alternative to the staff recommendation above, the city council could waive further reading, and reintroduce Ordinance No. 2014-1323, the ordinance requiring the mandatory spaying and neutering of pit bull breeds.

As a second alternative to the recommended action, the council may direct staff to develop an ordinance section requiring mandatory spaying and neutering of all breeds for future consideration and reading.

Please urge Lake Elsinore officials to focus on alleviating the city’s animal control problems by offering education, reduced licensing and microchipping fees, and low or no cost spay/neuter alternatives to residents. These alternative give residents the opportunity to learn and better understand their responsibilities as a pet owner, and won’t force those who cannot afford to comply with the required measures to abandon their animals at the shelter or in the streets.

Please also continue to encourage officials to keep breed specific legislation off the table.  Its important to emphasize that statistics indicate that breed specific ordinances, as well as mandatory spay/neuter ordinances in general, result in an increase in shelter intake and are enforcement nightmares.

Residents are encouraged to attend tomorrow’s council meeting which takes place at the Cultural Center at 183 North Main Street and begins at 7:00 p.m.

Mayor and City Council
njohnson@lake-elsinore.org,smanos@lake-elsinore.org,dhickman@lake-elsinore.org,rmagee@lake-elsinore.org,btisdale@lake-elsinore.org

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

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