Yeager proposes mandatory spay-neuter for pit bulls

Ken Yeager

Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager proposed requiring the
owners of

pit bull-type dogs

to spay or neuter their pets as a way to limit the canines’
potential for aggression and possibly prevent injuries to people
and other animals.
An ordinance, which would only apply in the county’s
unincorporated areas, will be proposed and discussed at Tuesday’s
supervisors meeting.
Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager proposed requiring the owners of “pit bull-type dogs” to spay or neuter their pets as a way to limit the canines’ potential for aggression and possibly prevent injuries to people and other animals.

An ordinance, which would only apply in the county’s unincorporated areas, will be proposed and discussed at Tuesday’s supervisors meeting.

Yeager announced his intention to submit the new pet-owners’ requirements Friday, weeks after a Concord man’s pit bulls fatally mauled his 2-year-old step-grandson July 22 in Contra Costa County.

More recently, Gilroy police shot and killed a pit bull that was attacking a smaller dachshund Aug. 2 in the back yard of a home on the 500 block of West Ninth Street.

“We shouldn’t wait for tragedy to strike in this county before we react,” Yeager said in a statement. “We need to be proactive in preventing serious injuries to our residents.”

Spayed and neutered dogs tend to be calmer and less aggressive, diminishing the likelihood of attacks, according to Yeager’s statement.

Following the mauling death of a child in 2005, the city of San Francisco enacted a mandatory spay-neuter ordinance for pit bulls. Since then, animal control officials have indicated the number of pit bulls seized and euthanized has decreased significantly.

Most significant bite episodes involve multiple dogs residing in the same household and have not been spayed or neutered, Yeager added.

In addition to San Francisco, the cities of Gilroy, San Bernardino, Lancaster, Manteca and Ripon as well as Sonoma County have such laws in place.

Gilroy’s dog ordinance requiring pit bulls to be spayed and neutered went into effect May 5.

Santa Clara County already restricts parcels less than five acres to two dogs and parcels five acres or more to three dogs. The county also provides a limited subsidized spay-neuter service for pit bull-type dogs. Last year, 158 dogs were spayed or neutered under this program.

Exactly what other types of breeds, besides just pit bulls, would be subject to a possible county spay-and-neuter ordinance is yet to be determined, Yeager spokesman Jim Weston said. If the full board of supervisors approves, the county staff will research other measures to achieve the same results, including measures in place in other cities and counties.

But the county shouldn’t “overreact to every issue,” Supervisor Don Gage said. He said the issue of aggressive or annoying dogs comes up periodically at county meetings, but he noted many pit bull owners and breeders are able to keep their dogs under control.

He added he would have to thoroughly consider the implications of a spay-neuter ordinance before deciding.

“I think this is something that’s been hashed over many times (before) for dogs that are violent,” Gage said. “I don’t want to duplicate anything we already have that can accomplish the same thing.”

He added some cities, including Morgan Hill and Gilroy, have restrictions in place to regulate potentially aggressive dogs. Both cities, for example, require dog owners within the city limits to register and license their pets at city hall.

Yeager will also ask county staff to explore other public safety measures that could address the same concerns. Any proposed measures will be referred to the Housing, Land Use, Environment and Transportation Committee and the Animal Advisory Commission for discussion and comment before the board takes a final vote.

The city of Yucaipa, Contra Costa County, and San Bernardino County have dog ordinance proposals under consideration.

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