Sunday, September 21, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

It’s time to give animal ordinances some teeth

DebraDeAngeloW

By
From page A9 | June 23, 2013 |

A few weeks back, I wrote a column in the Winters Express about our city council’s inability or unwillingness to address the issue of loose, aggressive dogs, and I don’t mean just this particular city council.

In our “Years Ago” feature on Page 2, I discovered the following entry: “65 years ago, May 21, 1948 — Because of increased complaints about dogs in Winters, the county pound will conduct a campaign on unlicensed dogs Monday, the Winters City Council was told at the meeting Tuesday night.”

Many councils have come and gone since then, and although we have a leash law, it’s only randomly enforced. If the police can go fishing for drunk drivers by pulling drivers over for broken license plate lights, they could similarly go fishing for unneutered, unlicensed dogs by issuing citations for loose animals. Maybe if we establish a whopping penalty for loose, unneutered and unlicensed animals, it will get the police department’s attention.

You’d think a little girl’s cheek being torn off would’ve done it but, sadly, no. Drunk drivers are sexier. And yet, within Winters city limits, I’ll bet that injury from dog attacks — by pit bulls and pit bull mixes in particular — rivals the number of injuries caused by drunk drivers.

The column I wrote in May was prompted by a pit bull attack on a little Corgi while her owner was walking her by Putah Creek Nature Park. I also mentioned other local carnage caused by pit bulls, and prior feeble city council discussions about leash laws and pit bulls as recently as 2010. The Corgi’s owner addressed the council about the attack, and they listened politely, and Councilman Woody Fridae requested that the issue appear on an upcoming agenda for discussion.

Well, it hasn’t. So, at a recent council meeting, I stepped up to the microphone and reminded the council that this issue still hasn’t returned for discussion. And, to be clear, I mean serious discussion, not just wistful chin-stroking about how maybe, someday, we could have some sorta licensey kinda thingie … maybe … thanks for your input. OK, next agenda item.

Mayor Cecilia Aguiar-Curry assured me that the council wasn’t avoiding the issue, they’re just preoccupied with more pressing concerns at the moment. Loose, aggressive dogs just aren’t a priority.

Until a loose pit bull clamps down on a toddler’s head and cracks it like a walnut.

And then we get outraged and interested again, for a while, and then it slowly dissipates from our attention span.

Until it happens again.

And so on, and so on, and so on.

Enough’s enough. Sixty-five years have slid by, and no city council has tackled the issue of loose or aggressive dogs once and for all. I challenge this city council to be the one that does. If they’re truly too busy, then let’s form an Animal Services Commission to develop pet ownership ordinances that address the entire scope of animal related problems — leash laws, licensing, spay/neuter ordinances, abuse, neglect, and another of my pet (haha) peeves, excessive barking. (Yes, I wrote about that recently too.)

Technically, animal services fall under Yolo County’s jurisdiction. However, in my experience, the county’s ability to respond to an animal complaint is downright comical. Loose, aggressive dog chasing you down the street that evening? Yeah, sorry, no officers on duty tonight. Call back on Tuesday.

Maybe Animal Services is so busy euthanizing all those unwanted puppies and kittens dumped off by irresponsible pet owners who don’t get their animals spayed and neutered, they just can’t spare staff to go out on animal calls, particularly to the hinterlands that is Winters.

For whatever reason, Animal Services just can’t get its act together. It’s time for the city, and our police department, to stop pointing at Animal Services every time there’s an animal-related issue. Other cities are establishing their own city ordinances. Winters can too.

A reader sent me a list of city and county jurisdictions with “nuisance” laws that cover of animal-related issues, complete with citations and penalties. Los Angeles County’s Animal Laws & Ordinances were particularly impressive and offer a great template. (http://animalcare.lacounty.gov/lawsordinances.asp.)

Their ordinances address abandonment, excessive barking, dangerous dogs and inhumane treatment, including loose dogs riding in the back of trucks. It limits households to only one litter of puppies or kittens per year. Dogs must have a license attached to their collar, and are not allowed off leash outside the owner’s yard, and that goes for all dogs, from Pomeranians to pit bulls. Why? Because pit bull owners have successfully lobbied about discrimination against their lovely animals, who would never harm a fly. So delusional, they are. There are only two kinds of pit bulls: Those that bite, and those that haven’t yet. Were it up to me, pit bull owners would be required to carry extra insurance to pay for the medical bills, or funerals, for the people their beasts attack.

Don’t get me started.

So, how about it, Winters City Council? Are you ready to end 65 years of foot-dragging? Are you ready to appoint an Animal Services Commission to outline a plan? Moreover, are you ready to insist that the police department actually enforce the ordinances? How about putting citations for loose and unlicensed dogs in the police report?

And cat owners — you don’t get a free pass either.

I also wrote recently about kittens left to die in a box by the road in rural Winters. The very next week, a woman reported that someone did it again — more kittens were boxed up and abandoned at the high school ag site. This is double-dipping into the animal cruelty pot — failing to spay/neuter cats and then essentially torturing their unwanted offspring.

It needs to stop. Right here, right now, in Winters.

And if anyone at the county level is paying attention (I believe there are a few Davis residents running for county supervisor), I will throw my support, and vote, to the candidate who finally puts some teeth in our countywide animal ordinances.

— Email Debra DeAngelo at debra@wintersexpress.com; read more of her work at www.wintersexpress.com and www.edebra.com

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