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The County of Los Angeles has enacted a number of laws about dangerous dogs to protect communities from vicious attacks. Here are some of the laws which apply to handling dogs that are potentially dangerous or vicious.
Table of Contents
10.37.010 Purpose of this Chapter
Within the county of Los Angeles, there are potentially dangerous and vicious dogs that have become a serious and widespread threat to the safety and welfare of the citizens of the county which should be abated. The provisions of this chapter set forth the procedures by which a dog is found to be a potentially dangerous dog or a vicious dog, thereby becoming subject to appropriate controls and other actions. This chapter is intended to supplement rather than supplant any other remedy available under state statute or county ordinance.
10.37.020 Potentially Dangerous Dog: Definition
Potentially dangerous dog means any of the following:
- Any dog which, when unprovoked, on two separate occasions within the prior 36-month period, engages in any behavior that requires a defensive action by any person to prevent bodily injury when the person and the dog are off the property of the owner or custodian of the dog;
- Any dog which, when unprovoked, bites a person or otherwise engages in aggressive behavior, causing a less severe injury than as defined in Section 10.37.040;
- Any dog which, when unprovoked, has killed, seriously bitten, inflicted injury, or otherwise caused injury to a domestic animal off the property of the owner or custodian of the dog. (Ord. 2001-0042 § 2 (part), 2001.)
10.37.030 Vicious Dog: Definition
“Vicious dog” means any of the following:
- Any dog that engages in or has been found to have been trained to engage in exhibitions of fighting;
- Any dog which, when unprovoked, in an aggressive manner, inflicts severe injury on or kills a person;
- Any dog previously determined to be and currently listed as a potentially dangerous dog which, after its owner or custodian has been notified of this determination, continues the behavior described in section 10.37.020 or is maintained in violation of section 10.37.130. (Ord. 2001-0042 § 2 (part), 2001.)
10.37.040 Severe Injury: Definition
“Severe” injury means any physical injury to a human being that results in a major fracture, muscle tears, or disfiguring lacerations or requires multiple sutures or corrective or cosmetic surgery. (Ord. 2001-0042 § 2 (part), 2001.)
10.37.050 Enclosure: Definition
“Enclosure” means a fence or structure suitable to prevent the entry of young children, and which is suitable to confine a potentially dangerous or vicious dog in conjunction with other measures which may be taken by the owner or custodian of the dog. The enclosure shall be designed to prevent the animal from escaping. The animal shall be housed pursuant to section 597t of the Penal Code. (Ord. 2001-0042 § 2 (part), 2001.)
10.37.060 Department: Definition
“Department” means the department of animal care and control. (Ord. 2001-0042 § 2 (part), 2001.)
10.37.070 Impounded: Definition
“Impounded” means taken into the custody of the department. (Ord. 2001-0042 § 2 (part), 2001.)
This chapter does not apply to humane society shelters, animal control facilities, or veterinarians, or to dogs while utilized by any police department or any law enforcement officer in the performance of police work. (Ord. 2001-0042 § 2 (part), 2001.)
10.37.090 Right of Entry and Inspection
A duly authorized employee or agent of the department or any law enforcement officer may enter and inspect the private property in the manner as set forth in Section 10.12.210. Upon inspection, the department may act to enforce the provisions of this chapter. (Ord. 2001-0042 § 2 (part), 2001.)
10.37.100 Authority to Seize and Impound Animal Posing an Immediate Threat to Public Safety
- If upon investigation it is determined by the animal control officer or law enforcement officer that probable cause exists to believe the dog in question poses an immediate threat to public safety, then the animal control officer or law enforcement officer may seize and impound the dog pending the hearing to be held pursuant to this chapter. The owner or custodian of the dog shall be liable for the costs and expenses of keeping the dog impounded if the dog is later adjudicated potentially dangerous or vicious. Such costs and expenses shall be paid prior to the release of the dog.
- When a dog has been impounded pursuant to subsection A and it is not contrary to public safety, the director of the department of animal care and control shall permit the animal to be confined at the owner’s expense in a department-approved kennel or veterinary facility. (Ord. 2001-0042 § 2 (part), 2001.)
10.37.110 Potentially Dangerous or Vicious Dog Hearing
If an animal control officer or a law enforcement officer has investigated and determined that there exists probable cause to believe that a dog is potentially dangerous or vicious, the director of the department of animal care and control shall petition the Superior Court, within the judicial district wherein the dog is owned or kept, for a hearing for the purpose of determining whether or not the dog in question should be declared potentially dangerous or vicious.
Whenever possible, a complaint received from a member of the public which serves as the evidentiary basis for the animal control officer or law enforcement officer to find probable cause shall be sworn to and verified by the complainant and shall be attached to the petition. The director of the department of animal care and control shall notify the owner or custodian of the dog that a hearing will be held by the Superior Court, at which time he or she may present evidence as to why the dog should not be declared potentially dangerous or vicious.
The owner or custodian of the dog shall be served with notice of the hearing and a copy of the petition, either personally or by first-class mail with a return receipt requested. The hearing shall be held promptly within no less than five working days nor more than 10 working days after the service of the notice upon the owner or custodian of the dog. The hearing shall be conducted as a limited civil case pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure Section 85, et seq., and shall be open to the public.
The court may admit into evidence all relevant evidence, including incident reports and the affidavits of witnesses, limit the scope of discovery, and may shorten the time to produce records or witnesses. A jury shall not be available. The court may find, upon a preponderance of the evidence, that the dog is potentially dangerous or vicious and shall make other orders required or authorized by this chapter. The court may decide all issues for or against the owner or custodian of the dog even if the owner or custodian fails to appear at the hearing. (Ord. 2001-0042 § 2 (part), 2001.)
10.37.120 Notice of Determination and Appeal
- Following the hearing conducted pursuant to Section 10.37.110, the owner or custodian of the dog shall be notified in writing of the determination and order issued, either personally or by first-class mail, postage prepaid by the court. If the petitioner or the owner or custodian of the dog contests the determination, he or she may, within five days of the receipt of the notice of determination, appeal the decision, which appeal shall be made to the Superior Court before a judge other than the judge who originally heard the petition. The fee for filing an appeal shall be the fee provided for by Section 31622(a) of the Food and Agricultural Code and shall be payable to the county clerk. The petitioner or the owner or custodian of the dog shall serve notice of the appeal upon the other party personally or by first-class mail, postage prepaid.
- The court hearing the appeal shall conduct a hearing de novo, without a jury, and make its own determination as to potential danger and viciousness and make other orders authorized by this chapter, based upon the evidence presented. The hearing shall be conducted in the same manner and within the time periods set forth in Section 10.37.110. The court may admit all relevant evidence, including incident reports and the affidavits of witnesses, limit the scope of discovery, and may shorten the time to produce records or witnesses. The issue shall be decided upon the preponderance of the evidence.
- The court hearing the appeal may decide all issues for or against the owner or custodian of the dog even if the owner or custodian fails to appear at the hearing.
- The determination of the court hearing the appeal shall be final and conclusive upon all parties. (Ord. 2001-0042 § 2 (part), 2001.)
10.37.130 Conditions of Ownership of Potentially Dangerous Dogs
- The dog shall be properly licensed, microchipped, and vaccinated at the owner’s expense, prior to release to the dog’s owner or custodian. The department may include the designation in the registration records of the dog after the court has determined that the designation applies to the dog.
- The dog, while on the owner’s property, shall, at all times, be kept indoors, or in a securely fenced yard or enclosure from which the dog cannot escape, and into which children cannot trespass. The yard or enclosure must be inspected and approved in writing by the department prior to the release of the dog to its owner or custodian.
- The dog may be off the owner’s premises only if it is muzzled and restrained by a substantial leash, not exceeding six feet in length, and if it is under the control of an adult capable of restraining and controlling the dog. At no time may the dog be left unattended while off the owner’s premises.
- The owner or custodian of the dog shall notify the department immediately in the event the dog is at large or has committed an attack on any person or animal, has been sold or otherwise disposed of, or has died.
- The dog must complete an obedience course at the owner’s expense within 60 days after the release of the dog to its owner or custodian. The course shall be a course approved by the department.
- The dog must be spayed or neutered at the expense of the owner or custodian prior to the release of the dog to its owner or custodian.
- The dog may be required to wear a bright fluorescent yellow collar visible at 50 feet in normal daylight, which will be provided by the department at the owner’s expense.
- The owner or custodian of the dog may be required to maintain general liability insurance covering property damage and bodily injury caused by a potentially dangerous or vicious dog, with a combined single limit of $300,000.00 per occurrence, and may be required to show proof of such insurance within 30 days after the court has made its determination.
- All charges for services performed by the department pursuant to this Section 10.37.130 and all fines shall be paid prior to the release of the dog to its owner or custodian. If said charges and fines are not paid within 30 days after the date the services are performed or the fines are ordered to be paid, the dog shall be deemed to be abandoned to the department.
- The owner of a dog that has been determined to be a potentially dangerous dog as defined in Section 10.37.020, shall pay a fine not to exceed $500.00 for each separate basis upon which said the determination was made. Said fine shall be paid to the department for the purpose of defraying the costs of the implementation of this chapter.
- A judicial officer may impose such other reasonable conditions as are deemed necessary to protect public safety and welfare. (Ord. 2001-0042 § 2 (part), 2001.)
10.37.140 Consequences of Vicious Dog Determination
- A dog determined to be a vicious dog may be destroyed by the department when it is found, after proceedings conducted under Section 10.37.110, that the release of the dog would create a significant threat to the public health, safety, and welfare.
- If it is determined that a dog found to be vicious shall not be destroyed, the judicial authority shall impose the conditions upon ownership of potentially dangerous dogs required by Section 10.37.130, the conditions required by this section, and any other conditions necessary to protect the public health, safety, and welfare.
- The enclosure that is required pursuant to subsection B of Section 10.37.130 shall be an enclosure that is enclosed on all sides, and which is locked by a padlock. It may be required to have a top and a cement floor. The enclosure must be approved in writing by the department.
- The owner or custodian of a vicious dog must give written notice of the vicious dog determination to the United States Post Office (local branch) and all utility companies which provide services to the premises where the dog is kept. The owner or custodian shall provide a copy of such notice to the department within 30 days after the court determination that the dog is vicious.
- The owner or custodian of the dog shall post one or more signs on the premises at a location(s) approved by the department stating that a dog that has been determined to be vicious resides on the premises.
- The owner of a dog that has been determined to be a vicious dog pursuant to the provisions of Section 10.37.030 shall pay a fine not to exceed $1,000.00 for each separate basis upon which said determination was made. Said fine shall be paid to the department for the purpose of defraying the cost of the implementation of this chapter.
- The owner of a dog determined to be a vicious dog may be prohibited from owning, possessing, controlling, or having custody of any dog for a period of up to three years if it is found at the hearing conducted pursuant to the petition to declare the dog vicious, that ownership or possession of a dog by that person would create a significant threat to the public health, safety, and welfare. (Ord. 2001-0042 § 2 (part), 2001.)
10.37.150 Penalty for Violation of Conditions
The failure of an owner or custodian of a dog released after a hearing pursuant to Section 10.37.110 or 10.37.120 to comply with any of the conditions imposed by the court is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not exceeding $1,000.00 or by imprisonment in the County Jail for a period not exceeding six months, or by both such fine and imprisonment. (Ord. 2001-0042 § 2 (part), 2001.)
10.37.160 Removal of Designation
If there are no additional instances of the behavior described in Section 10.37.020 within a 36-month period from the date of designation as a potentially dangerous dog, the dog shall be removed from the list of potentially dangerous dogs. The dog may, but is not required to be, removed from the list of potentially dangerous dogs prior to the expiration of the 36-month period if the owner or custodian of the dog demonstrates to the department that changes in circumstances or measures taken by the owner or custodian, such as the training of the dog, have mitigated the risk to the public safety. (Ord. 2001-0042 § 2 (part), 2001.)
- No dog may be declared potentially dangerous or vicious if any injury or damage is sustained by a person who, at the time the injury or damage was sustained, was committing a willful trespass or another tort upon premises occupied by the owner or custodian of the dog, or was teasing, tormenting, abusing, or assaulting the dog, or was committing or attempting to commit a crime. No dog may be declared potentially dangerous or vicious if the dog was protecting or defending a person within the immediate vicinity of the dog from an unjustified attack or assault. No dog may be declared potentially dangerous or vicious if an injury or damage was sustained by a domestic animal which at the time of the injury or damage was sustained was teasing, tormenting, abusing, or assaulting the dog.
- No dog may be declared potentially dangerous or vicious if the injury or damage to a domestic animal was sustained while the dog was working as a hunting dog, herding dog, or predator control dog on the property of, or under the control of, its owner or custodian, and the damage or injury was to a species or type of domestic animal appropriate to the work of the dog. (Ord. 2001-0042 § 2 (part), 2001.)
10.37.180 Infraction/Misdemeanor Penalty for Dog Bites
In addition to the conditions and restrictions imposed on the ownership of potentially dangerous and vicious dogs set forth in this chapter, an owner or custodian of a dog who permits, allows, or causes a dog to run, stray, or be uncontrolled or at large upon a public street, sidewalk, park or other public property, or in or upon the private property of another person, is guilty of a public offense punishable as an infraction or misdemeanor if such dog bites, attacks or causes injury to any person or to a domestic animal. (Ord. 2001-0042 § 2 (part), 2001.)
If You Have Been Injured
If you or a loved one has been injured in a dog attack, it is important that you contact an experienced Los Angeles County dog bite attorney who has a thorough knowledge and understanding of the laws pertaining to dog attacks and personal injury. The skilled dog bite injury lawyers at Bisnar Chase have helped numerous victims and their families seek and obtain maximum compensation for their losses. Call us to find out how we can help you.