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San Bernardino County supervisors vote to require all pit bulls to be spayed or neutered

June 22, 2010 |  1:38 pm
After a rash of deadly pit bull attacks throughout the Inland Empire, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors approved a measure Tuesday requiring all pit bull owners to spay or neuter their animals or face fines.

Pit bull attacks have killed four people in the county in the last five years, including a 2-year-old San Bernardino boy who was mauled by the family dog in May and a 3-year-old Apple Valley boy who died after a similar attack in January.

"It’s an imminent issue that we felt had to be addressed because of the recent attacks,"’ said Supervisor Neil Derry.

Under the ordinance, owners of pit bulls or pit bull mixes would be required to spay or neuter dogs over the age of four months. Owners who fail to do so would face a $100 for the first offense and more severe fines for subsequent offenses.  A final vote on the ordinance, considered a formality, is scheduled for July.

For owners suffering financial hardship, the county will provide vouchers to subsidize the cost.

“This year alone, we’ve had two human deaths, and four deaths in five years, because of pit bull attacks. No other death has been attributable to any other breed,’’ said Brian Cronin, chief of county animal care and control.

Pit bull breeds account for 20% of the dogs being housed in county animal shelters, Cronin said.  Because they are the least likely breed to be adopted, 77% of those dogs  -- about 1,300 animals -- are euthanized a year, he said.

Ed Shepherd of Rialto, who owns American Bullies, criticized the ordinance for punishing responsible dog owners and breeders. Many of the dog owners who abuse or fail to properly care for their pit bulls already ignore licensing requirement, and will likely do the same with the spay-and-neutering law, he said.

"The real problem is the yokel down the street with a hole in the fence,’’ Shepherd said. “This isn’t going to stop those people."’

Derry, who sponsored the measure with fellow board member Brad Mitzelfelt, said the focus on pit bulls will be the first step. He said he wants to require all dogs in the county to be spayed or neutered, similar to requirements already in place in Los Angeles and Riverside counties and the city of San Bernardino.

-- Phil Willon in San Bernardino