The city of Lancaster is considering adopting strict penalties for owners of potentially dangerous and vicious dogs – particularly pit bulls and Rottweilers – which they say are used as weapons of intimidation by the area’s gang members. According to this news report in the Los Angeles Times, the proposed ordinance would also require spaying and neutering of all varieties of pit bulls and Rottweilers including mixed breeds that have the predominant physical characteristics of those breeds.
If this ordinance is approved, Lancaster will join many other cities in Los Angeles County that have adopted similar dangerous dog ordinances. But in this case, the city is going one step further by specifically identifying dogs that are potentially dangerous or vicious. California law allows government agencies to target specific breeds for spaying and neutering, but these specific breeds cannot be officially branded “vicious.” Under Lancaster’s ordinance, a hearing officer could determine an individual dog to be vicious if for example they behave aggressively. City officials say they particularly want to use this ordinance to crack down on local gang members.
Such ordinances almost always offend owners of pit bulls and Rottweilers, who understandably have a soft corner in their hearts for these animals. They argue that there is no scientific evidence that genetics cause a breed of dog to be aggressive, vicious or dangerous. While it is true that irresponsible or negligent dog owners should be punished or be held liable in dog attacks, consider these statistics. According to a report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), pit bulls and Rottweilers accounted for more than 70 percent of dog attack fatalities in the United States between the years 1979 and 1996. This report clearly shows that when it comes to dangerous dog breeds, pit bulls and Rottweilers really do lead the pack.
As Los Angeles personal injury lawyers who vigorously fight for the rights of dog bite victims in Southern California, we know what a lot of damage and injury these breeds of dogs can cause. Consider one of the examples in the Times’ report of 3-year-old Brittney Cesena, who was mauled by a pit bull at a family friend’s house when she was only 11 months old. The child suffered horrible facial injuries and her ear had to be retrieved from the dog’s stomach. Her family is suing the dog’s owners for “negligence and strict liability,” which they should. California has a strict liability statute when it comes to dog bites, which makes the dog owner responsible in the case his or her animal attacks and injures or kills another person.
However, the laws enforced by city governments and municipalities will go a long way in preventing these tragic attacks and enhancing public safety. These ordinances that place the emphasis on responsible dog ownership are very much necessary to educate dog owners about the importance of restraining their pets especially if they have displayed dangerous or vicious behavior in the past.