The good, bad and ugly in city’s proposed dog ordinance

The mandatory spaying of Pit Bull breeds (breed specific
legislation) is a bad thing. Why, you might ask, especially when
you hear about vicious attacks by these types of dogs. Well, let’s
break down what this entails.
By Nancy Hjelmstad

THE GOOD, Sections I, II, III, IV, V and VI

The City Council did a very good job beefing up the definition of a dangerous dog. Bravo. Irresponsible or careless owners should be held accountable for the actions of their dogs. This law gives the police the right tools needed to take action on a complaint. Regardless the breed of dog, this portion of the ordinance helps police deal with inappropriate or aggressive behavior.

Broken down, it classifies aggressive dog behavior on three levels. First is the dog that constantly runs loose, endangering the public or barking aggressively, frightening passersby, your dog can be seized and impounded. It then addresses the aggressive dog that bites or causes injury to another animal or person. Lastly the dog that attacks without provocation that requires euthanization.

Do you have a neighbor that never cleans up after his dog? Then section III is the answer to your prayers. This section deals with public nuisances. You must clean up after your dog when he defecates in public. It also regulates unsanitary conditions existing on your property. You can be cited and fined. A second offense will require an owner to have his dog sterilized and microchipped.

Dangerous dog laws like these have proved to be very effective, as they target irresponsible or careless owners. Fines and penalties, including possible jail time for more serious offenses, are often the best deterrents as they punish the person and her pocket book.

Section VI, addresses cat owners. When I first moved to this area, I had both my dogs and cats licensed in Morgan Hill and microchipped. I was told that although they would issue tags for my cats it wouldn’t necessarily ensure their safe return if lost.

Now cat owners will be held to the same yardstick as dog owners, they must be licensed and properly vaccinated. I hope by moving the licensing to Gilroy, that our beloved animals, cats and dogs alike, have a better chance of a happy reunion when lost. Too bad the new ordinance didn’t stop there.

THE BAD, Section VII

The mandatory spaying of Pit Bull breeds (breed specific legislation) is a bad thing. Why, you might ask, especially when you hear about vicious attacks by these types of dogs. Well, let’s break down what this entails.

Senate Bill 861 allows local municipalities to enact mandatory spay and neuter programs for specific dog breeds. But at the same time, it states that if a city does enact this law, local officials are required to measure the program’s effectiveness on dog bites. This means our tax dollars and manpower are needed to collect this statistical data which must be provided quarterly to the State Public Health Veterinarian. This is one of the reasons other cities have dropped mandatory spay-neuter programs. They can be quite costly. Over 179 U.S. cities, counties and/or states have either repealed or chosen not to go with BSL. The Netherlands repealed their BSL after 25 years of research proved that there was NO improvement in public safety and bite incidents didn’t decrease. However the number of confiscated dogs does rise and they are housed at taxpayer expense. Prolonged court battles over breed identification means more added expenses. In the end BSL is ineffective, unenforceable and expensive.

This law does not contain exceptions for good dogs, such as service dogs, working farm and cattle dogs, or for show dogs. This unfairly penalizes responsible dog owners by further stigmatizing an often victimized breed. We all care about doing what’s right for our community, both its human and canine inhabitants, and I personally hope that Gilroy looks for ways to keep people safe from all dangerous dogs, regardless of breed, and also finds ways to keep dogs safe from irresponsible people.


This section calls for the neutering or spaying to occur at four months of age. Professionals typically agree that the spay/neuter procedure can be performed between four to six months of age, but sexual maturity, breed and health also play a role. A female spayed before maturity can develop urinary problems. Males neutered before puberty tend to grow larger with less muscle development than dogs neutered after puberty. For these reasons, most caring dog owners and vets prefer to wait until their animals are at least six months.

This BSL section also calls for an inordinate amount of paperwork to be supplied to the city by breeders of Bully dogs, everything from copies of AKC or UKC papers, pedigree information, dog show registration, veterinary records, to the name address and telephone number of each new owner with whom you place a puppy. Failure to follow any of these BSL rules can lead to euthanization of the pet.

I am sure you are familiar with the quote from a speech by Pastor Martin Niemöller – then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up. I am speaking up for the Bully Breed dogs.

Guest columnist Nancy Hjelmstad is a local resident and voter, Bully Breed Owner Member of the Gavilan Kennel Club Member of the American Staffordshire Terrier Club of America, member of the Golden State American Staffordshire Terrier Club and member of the All Breed Lure Sports Association and Editor of the STCA Magazine. Anyone interested in writing a guest column may contact Editor Mark Derry at

[email protected]

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