SB COUNTY: Spay/neuter law expanded

Imran Ghori / Staff
San Bernardino County recently expanded its ordinance requiring the spaying or neutering of dogs.
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Any dog that runs afoul of animal welfare laws in San Bernardino County must be spayed or neutered under a new ordinance.

The law, approved unanimously by the Board of Supervisors last week, expands upon an ordinance approved last year that requires pit bull owners to spay or neuter their pets.

Supervisor Neil Derry introduced the original proposal in response to an increasing number of attacks by pit bulls in recent years that resulted in four deaths -- two of them young children -- in the last five years.

The county saw a 9.6 percent decrease in dog bites in the year since the spay/neuter program was instituted, said Brian Cronin, the county's animal care and control division chief.

But overpopulation of dogs continues to be a problem in the county. The animal care and control division shelters take in an average of 44 dogs a day, most of them abandoned or strays, Cronin said. He believes the recession has played a part in the increase with foreclosed homeowners choosing to leave behind pets.

The increasing number of dogs has led to overcrowding at animal shelters and more forced euthanizing of animals, Derry said. In the 2010-11 fiscal year, 11,384 dogs were impounded at the three county-run shelters with 37 percent euthanized.

Expanding the spay/neuter requirement will help cut down on unwanted dogs, Derry said.

Animal care and control officers would enforce the law when pet owners are found in violation of other regulations such as a leash requirement, licensing or getting rabies vaccinations.

"We're focusing on the pet owner that's not being responsible and causing trouble for their neighbors and pets," Derry said.

The ordinance allows for exemptions such as for competition, pure-bred or service dogs.

It will apply to unincorporated areas of the county and Highland and Yucaipa, which contract with the county for animal control services, when it takes effect in October.

Riverside County adopted a similar ordinance two years ago while some jurisdictions such as the cities of San Bernardino and Riverside and Los Angeles County are stricter and have mandatory spay/neuter ordinances.

Cronin said the county doesn't have the resources to enforce a mandatory program.

Sue Herbert, a San Bernardino resident who said she often sees unwanted dogs dumped at a flood control wash near her home, praised the board for expanding its spay/neuter program.

"There are simply too many dogs," she said. "Shelters are bursting with them. Foster organizations aren't able to take them all in."

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