County says no to mandatory spay/neuter of pit bulls, other dogs

County budget tackles $220M shortfall

Pit bulls and other large dogs residing in unincorporated areas
of Santa Clara County won’t be subject to a mandatory spay and
neutering ordinance after the county board of supervisors Tuesday
pulled back the leash on a strict ordinance proposed last
August.
Pit bulls and other large dogs residing in unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County won’t be subject to a mandatory spay and neutering ordinance after the county board of supervisors Tuesday pulled back the leash on a strict ordinance proposed last August.

The board accepted the report by county staff and an independent advisory committee that decided the feasibility and challenges of enacting a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance for pit bull-like dogs would not “achieve the desired public safety outcome,” according to the staff report.

Instead, the board agreed at Tuesday’s meeting to change some of the language used in an ordinance that will expand the free and low-cost spay/neuter program and explore starting a pilot program at elementary schools to inform students on how to act around dogs to decrease dog bites.

The ordinance will come back to the board for a first and second reading, then a vote for approval. The language changes had to do with attacks that happen on the dog owner’s property. For example, if a dog bites someone breaking into a home the dog isn’t necessarily an aggressive dog. The board did not want the ordinance to “punish dogs doing their jobs,” said Colleen Valles, a policy aide for District 1 Supervisor Mike Wasserman.

“The supervisor did support the staff recommendation, and thought it was a better way to proceed than enacting a mandatory spay/neuter ordinance,” Valles said.

In Morgan Hill, the city has restrictions to regulate potentially aggressive dogs and requires dog owners within the city limits to register and license their pets at City Hall. Spay/neutering laws are in place in San Francisco, Gilroy, San Bernadino, Lancaster, Manteca, and Sonoma County.

Under the county-funded voluntary spay/neuter program, veterinarians are reimbursed for surgery costs for pit bull-type dogs. In 2010, 157 pit bull-type dog surgeries were performed under the program. The county defines “pit-bull type dogs” as American pit bull terrier, bull terrier, miniature bull terrier, American bull dog, American staffordshire terrier and staffordshire bull terrier.

The dog population in the unincorporated areas of the county is estimated at 20,300 dogs; 2,000 are considered to be pit bull-type dogs. Animal control officers investigate about 110 reported incidents of dogs biting humans each year in unincorporated areas of the county.

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