Riverside Leaders Move Forward Law to Require Pit Bull Sterilization

A day after a toddler in Riverside County was mauled to death by a pack of pit bulls, leaders in the county voted again to push forward an ordinance that would make it mandatory to sterilize pit bulls.

Under the proposal, dog owners in unincorporated cities of Riverside County will be required to sterilize their pit bulls and pit bull mixes older than four months.

“While the majority of pit bull owners are responsible and take appropriate measures to ensure that their dogs do not have unwanted offspring, there is a need to mitigate the large number of unwanted pit bulls in the county,” according to an introduction to the ordinance.

The county’s board of supervisors approved to send Ordinance 921 before the public for comment during its meeting set for Oct. 8, according to Kim McWhorter, spokeswoman for the board.

The Department of Animal Services broached the issue of restricting pit bull breeding to the board during a meeting in April, receiving a mixed response.

Many pit bull owners complained that the breed had been “sensationalized,” and that the dogs were unfairly targeted for criticism.

Victims of pit bull attacks, including Beaumont City Councilwoman Brenda Knight, countered that the canines have a vicious streak and physical makeup that make them inherently dangerous.


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According to a Department of Animal Services statement, the purpose of the proposed ordinance is to “protect the public's health and welfare from irresponsible owners of pit bulls by mitigating the over-population of unwanted pit bulls.”

Animal services Director Rob Miller noted that 20 percent of impounded dogs and 30 percent of those euthanized at county shelters are pits, which “historically have very low redemption or adoption rates.”

Under the measure, any pit bull over four months old would be required to be spayed or neutered unless an owner can qualify his or her animal for one of the following five exemptions:

  • pit bull belongs to a registered breeder at the time the ordinance
  • was enacted;
  • pit bull is trained for law enforcement duties;
  • pit bull is an "assistance dog" for a disabled person;
  • pit bull has been certified by a veterinarian as having a health
  • defect that sterilization would aggravate; or
  • pit bull is in training and licensed in another county.

In its proposal, the Department of Animal Services defines pits as Staffordshire Bull Terriers, American Pit Bull Terriers, American Stafford Terriers “or any mixed breed which contains ... any one of these breeds so as to be identifiable as partially of one or more of these breeds.”

A dog owner may request a “breed determination,” which would require the county's chief veterinarian or a member of his staff to examine the pet. If the dog is designated a pit bull, an owner would have the opportunity to appeal the finding before a county administrative officer, or take the case to court.

Individuals who fail to comply with the ordinance would face fines and penalties, according to county officials. Enforcing the ordinance would occur when a dog is impounded or when it's brought in to be vaccinated, licensed or microchipped.

Numerous pit bull attacks have been reported in the region this year, including one by as many as five pit-bull-type mix dogs that mauled a 2-year-old boy to death in Colton in San Bernardino County Monday afternoon.

In Riverside County, an 80-year-old French Valley man was seriously mauled by his son's 90-pound Mastiff pit mix in June. In February, a 91-year-old Hemet woman was killed by her two pit bulls.

In Los Angeles County, a dog owner is facing murder charges after his canines killed a 63-year-old woman in Antelope Valley earlier this year.

Supervisor John Tavaglione said in April that he wanted tough regulations targeting owners after learning that an 84-year-old Jurupa Valley man was torn apart by a family pit bull while sitting in his wheelchair.

If approved, the ordinance would only apply to unincorporated communities, though area cities could choose to use the county measure as a model.

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