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L.A. County supervisors OK new vicious dog ordinance

July 27, 2011 |  6:00 am

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f26d1332970b-600wi

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has unanimously approved an ordinance that allows animal control officers more leeway in determining whether a dog is vicious and can be euthanized.

The new ordinance, approved Tuesday, allows evidence of a dog’s viciousness to be gathered from other jurisdictions, instead of just Los Angeles County.

It also allows for an administrative hearing before an officer with the county’s Animal Care and Control department, instead of a hearing in Superior Court, to determine whether a dog is vicious. Previously, only a court hearing was allowed.

It also expands the harm a dog may cause to be declared vicious to now include "serious illness or injury" to a human. Previously the county considered a dog vicious if it caused fractures, lacerations and muscle tears.

The ordinance earned the ire of animal activists. Jill Ryther, an animal-rights attorney, said allowing animal control officers to determine whether a dog is vicious would lead to unaccountable and arbitrary decisions. She also said the new definition of a vicious dog was vague.

"It’s going to subject innocent dogs, who the statute wasn’t meant to apply to, to euthanasia because of the language," Ryther said in an interview with The Times.

In response, Animal Care and Control officials issued a statement saying the changes were needed to keep owners of dangerous dogs from moving across county lines when their animals are deemed vicious somewhere else. It said also that ample safeguards were in place to ensure that the administrative hearings were not arbitrary.

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-- Sam Quinones

Photo credit: Associated Press

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