It is time to institute criminal penalties for irresponsible dog owners whose dogs injure people or other animals. Civil penalties are not enough, especially for those who are not able to pay for the damages their dogs cause. Irresponsible dog ownership has always been with us. What has changed?
Two major factors have changed. The number of severe dog attacks by bigger, stronger, more aggressive dogs causing horrific injuries to people and other animals is on the rise. The number of vicious dog attacks on dogs is on the rise. The number of insurance companies dropping coverage for dog owners or refusing to cover certain breeds and sizes of dogs is increasing dramatically.
A steady stream of people have contacted us who have been attacked by vicious dogs, their children have been horrifically mauled by dogs, their pets have been seriously or mortally wounded by dogs or who are afraid to walk the streets of their own neighborhoods because dogs roam their streets. My wife is reluctant to walk our Bichon Frises in our gate guarded community due to a previous attack on them by a much larger unleashed dog. Nearly every day I see large dogs being walked, without a leash, on the bike/horse trail on the side of our property where over a hundred people pass each day.
In Orange County, California we have an ordinance that states:
“No person owning or having charge, care, custody, or control of any dog shall cause or permit, either willfully or through failure to exercise due care or control, any such dog to be upon any public property unless such dog be restrained by a substantial chain, or leash not exceeding six (6) feet in length, and is under the charge of a person competent to exercise care, custody, and control over such dog” (OCCO 4-1-45).
The penalty for violation of our leash law is an infraction. An infraction, like a parking ticket is an administrative matter, not a criminal matter. A first offense comes with a maximum $100 fine. I say, this consequence is not enough to deter violations.
I am advocating a law that reads something like this: Any person in violation of the county’s leash law (OCCO 4-1-45) and the subject dog injures a person or another properly leashed dog; such person will be guilty of a misdemeanor criminal offense. A first offense would carry a minimum fine of $500, maximum of $1,000 and/or up to six months in jail.
Anyone who regularly reads a newspaper knows that Pit-bulls and Rottweilers can be very dangerous dogs. Cities across the nation have or are seriously considering banning these dangerous breeds of dogs to protect innocent citizens. What we really need is stiffer penalties for the dog owners.
To own these dogs is one thing, but to let them roam around in a public place without a leash is the height of irresponsibility. Take for instance, the owners of two pit-bulls who let their dogs loose in a small neighborhood park in Irvine. What happened? According to an article in The Orange County Register, the two pit-bulls pounced on a helpless little poodle and mauled it to death.
It wasn’t as if the poodle was out in the park taking a stroll by itself. According to the article, a caretaker was walking the poodle at the small West Irvine park on Robinson Drive, when the two off-leash dogs charged at the poodle. Thankfully, the dog walker was not attacked or injured. The Register article states that at first, no one knew much about the Pit-bulls’ owners.
Officials took the dogs to the shelter, where both Pit-bulls were claimed by their owners. One of the owners lives in the city while the other is from out of town, but both the dog owners are reportedly friends. They have not yet been charged in this case, but according to the Register, police are conducting an investigation that could result in criminal charges against the owners for failing to secure the dogs. They could also begin proceedings to have the animals declared “vicious,” the article states. Would a $500 fine help deter this type of irresponsibility?
This is the second such dog-on-dog attack that made the newspapers in Orange County in less than two months. On June 6, in a strikingly similar incident, an elderly Tustin woman and her poodle were attacked outside her home. In that case her poodle was snatched by two Pit-bulls and mauled in front of her eyes in her front yard. No one came forward to claim those Pit-bulls and they were both euthanized.
In my opinion, the Pit-bulls involved in these attacks must be declared vicious and their owners be subjected to a criminal offense, a significant fine and the prospect of jail time… Why? Almost always, attacking a smaller animal is precursory to a Pit-bull or Rotweiller attacking people. It’s a poodle today, but tomorrow it could be a small child. Babies and toddlers have suffered horrible deaths and severe injuries that require intensive plastic surgery in the hands of these animals, some of whom are vicious.
Some owners just don’t get it. They’re either in denial about their pet’s dangerous propensities or they just don’t care about the safety of their neighbors. For those people I propose a law making their behavior criminal if their dog injures someone.
What do you think of criminal sanctions for dog owners whose dog mauls someone?