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Lancaster weighs breed-specific legislation for pit bulls and Rottweilers

January 26, 2009 |  7:17 pm

Pitbull In an effort to crack down on gangs, Lancaster is considering a plan that would also crack down on dogs -- specifically, pit bulls and Rottweilers.

A proposed ordinance, to be voted on tomorrow, would impose harsh penalties on the owners of dogs labeled "potentially dangerous" or "vicious."  It would also require that Rottweilers, pit bulls and mixed-breeds with the physical characteristics of either breed be spayed or neutered.  Our colleague Ann M. Simmons explains the Lancaster mayor's position:

"I want gangs out of Lancaster," Mayor R. Rex Parris said in a recent interview. "I want to make it uncomfortable for them to be here. Anything they like, I want to take it away from them. I want to deliberately harass them....

"It's really like [gangs] having a weapon that they are allowed to display and intimidate people," Parris said. "If they have a pit bull, they may as well put a sign on their head saying, 'Come get me.' "

But Simmons found that many Lancaster residents are opposed to legislation singling out these much-maligned breeds and spoke out against it at a recent council meeting:

"There is no scientific proof that genetics cause a breed of dog to be aggressive, vicious or dangerous," dog trainer Carole Kelly told council members. "Irresponsible owners are to blame for the behavior of dogs. Breed-specific legislation is an injustice." ...

"What happens when these gang members that you're trying to target move on to Dobermans or German shepherds? You going to restrict them too?" [A.J. Listman, a trainer and dog show competitor] asked the council.

Puppies under 4 months of age and dogs considered high-risk for problems during surgery would be exempt from the spay-neuter ordinance.  While California law allows specific breeds to be targeted for spaying and neutering, a breed as a whole can't be officially labeled "vicious."

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

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