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Barking dogs and wandering pets could mean new fines following L.A. City Council vote

Dog walk

The Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to allow the L.A. Department of Animal Services to issue $100 citations to owners who allow their dogs to roam free and those whose dogs are problem barkers.

The city's Municipal Code already specifies that dogs must be leashed when outside of their owners' property, with the exception of approved areas like city-designated off-leash dog parks. The recent vote would increase the penalty to owners who violate the existing rule.

The Municipal Code also bars owners from allowing dogs to make "noise which is unreasonably annoying, disturbing, offensive, or which unreasonably interferes with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property of one or more persons occupying property in the community or neighborhood."

The Daily Breeze reports on the City Council's motivation for authorizing the new $100 penalties:

The 10-0 vote came after the council learned that Animal Services officers last year wrote nearly 20,000 "notices to comply" to pet owners who had violated city regulations. If each of those violations carried a $100 fine, the city would generate $2 million, officials said.

Of course, with L.A.'s current financial situation looking dire -- for example, a recently proposed $1.8-million cut to the animal services department's budget could mean the closure of an animal shelter if approved -- the City Council is anxious to find new ways to increase revenue.

But beyond the new fines' revenue-generating potential, they can also be "an excellent method for reinforcing the seriousness of complying with laws relating to humane treatment of animals and human-animal safety," the animal services department's interim general manager, Kathy Davis, said.

Repeat violators could be subject to stiffer fines.

For a full list of L.A.'s animal-related municipal codes in PDF format, visit the L.A. Department of Animal Services' website. (It's also available in Spanish.)

-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: A man walks two Siberian huskies along a trail. Credit: Gerard Burkhart / For the Times

 
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If the L.A. Department of Animal Services AND the city really cared about increasing revenue in a positive way for animals, they really need to reconsider the 3-limit law because it's not logical at all. Why is it legal for someone with an apartment, condo, or very small house/yard to own 3 dogs, yet someone with a big house, big yard can still only have 3? The limit should be based upon the size of your house/yard. Raising it to 4 dogs would increase animal license revenue. With the amount of dogs out there in need, it would be fair, logical, and cost effective. A better alternative than what we (LA Dept of Animal Servs) do now, which is put them all to sleep when we run out of room!

Animal Services could practically balance their budget buy ticketing off-leash dogs in Griffith Park and Elysian Park combined. At least I can dream.

Although I strongly agree that the pet limits should be raised, I disagree that it should be tied to a person's acreage. People with big houses can be rotten pet guardians and people in small apartments can be good ones. What we DON'T need is more vacant celebutantes buying dogs to use as accessories, then thinking they've lost those dogs because they're too stupid to remember which house they left them in.


Additionally, many of the pets in most dire need of homes are seniors, who don't need tons of space, just a lot of love and understanding, something certainly not restricted to the wealthy. Many small dogs need homes, and many large dogs are couch potatoes who would rather have a big screen TV than a sumptuous yard.


As for the "math" involved in assuming 20,000 notices to comply would translate into two million in revenue, that sounds like another shell game from the leadership at L.A. Animal Services. The fact is if you call LAAS and complain that your neighbor is letting his/her dog out without a leash it's not like an officer comes out to investigate. They send a letter. They never witness the dog being off-leash because they don't leave the office. Much as I oppose any dog being let out off-leash (because it's dangerous to both humans and dogs) I doubt you can ding someone for $100 if you never actually witness it.


Another thing LAAS Animal Control officers will not come out for is lost dogs on the loose. I called one time because a lost dog was running in rush hour traffic on Westwood Blvd., less than one mile from the West L.A. shelter. Four motorists had gotten out of their cars to try and rescue this dog, and the staffer who answered the phone at West L.A. actually heaved a disgusted sigh of annoyance because I called for help. He asked if I would rather they come save this dog than a dog who was injured -- and mind you, this dog was lucky not to be dead under the wheels of a car. The lieutenant actually told me that "all we would be able to do is issue a citation for a stray dog"! He literally did not care if the dog got hit. They refused to come and the dog ran off, God knows where. A year or two later I was in the shelter itself when they received a call about another dog running loose. The woman at the desk said the caller could bring the dog in himself, but "we don't come out -- that's our policy."


I would be a whole lot more interested in getting LAAS more money if they did more saving and less killing.


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