A couple of days ago, we wrote about a plan under consideration to start keeping track of dangerous dog owners, just like some states do with sex offenders. In Orange County, California, supervisors are looking at the possibility of doing the exact opposite: They want to create a public website that shows the locations of dangerous dogs.
Supervisor Todd Spitzer explained the rationale to the Los Angeles Times on Monday, and it sounds very similar to the argument for the database for abusive owners: “We know where dangerous sex offenders are living in our community. The public has the right to know where owners are harboring a dog declared vicious or dangerous.”
The website would give the addresses of dogs that have been determined to be “vicious” by county standards, along with descriptions of the animal and incidents that the dog has been involved in.
But the ordinance, if passed, goes beyond just listing names and descriptions. Owners of violent dogs will have to take some precautions themselves. If they’re keeping a dog that’s been deemed dangerous by the county, they could be required to spay or neuter it (which they should be doing anyway in most cases), post signs on their property warning that a violent dog lives there, and purchase as much as $100,000 worth of liability insurance.
But here’s the big question: What, in the eyes of Orange County officials, counts as “dangerous” or “vicious?” Or, at least, enough so to justify all this action on the part of the county and dog owners? That’s the one issue that’s holding up a decision on the proposed ordinance. County supervisors planned to vote on it Monday, but it was rescheduled until December while they decide how they want to define their terms.
Right now, the ordinance defines a “dangerous” dog as one that either has has been cited two times or more in a three-year period or, without provocation, has severely injured a person or killed an animal. “Vicious” dogs are those that have been specifically trained to fight, or have been in fights, or have severely injured or killed a person without being provoked. There are currently about 150 dogs in Orange County that are considered dangerous or vicious.
Regardless of how the terms are defined, not everyone believes that a public map is the way to handle the problem of dangerous dogs. Blythe Wheaton, the executive director of the Pet Rescue Center in Mission Viejo, believes it just panders to hysteria and that the stigma would make it harder for owners to retrain their dogs if needed.
“It would just be creating a sense of unnecessary alarm,” she told the Times. “Owners could be harassed, or trainers could refuse to work with their dog. It doesn’t create a supportive environment to allow the owner to help the animal if they’re going to be pinned on a list.”
Ryan Drabek, spokesman for Orange County Animal Care, disagrees, and believes that public safety would benefit from such a website: “It’s important for residents to be educated on where dangerous animals live,” he told the press. “When people go for walks, it’s good to know.”
What do you think? Is this plan something that protects the public, or is it just feeding panic about dogs? Let us hear from you in the comments below.