Environmental Services Agency
August 4, 2005
BOARD MEETING DATE:
September 13, 2005
Honorable Board of Supervisors
Marcia Raines, Environmental Services Agency Director
Dangerous Animal Ordinance Revisions
Adopt an ordinance amending certain sections of Chapter 6.04 of Title 6 of the San Mateo County Ordinance Code regarding Animal Control and Dangerous Animal Proceedings
Commitment: Ensure basic health and safety for all.
Goal(s): Maintain and enhance the public safety of all residents and visitors.
This ordinance amendment contributes to the goal of maintaining the public safety of all by tightening local authority over animals that may be a threat to the public safety.
The County has contracted with the Peninsula Humane Society (PHS) for Animal Control Services to all cities and the unincorporated areas of the County for over 45 years. The twenty cities of the County have historically contracted with the County for Animal Control Services. The contract between the County and cities states each city is responsible to adopt and maintain a substantially same animal control ordinance and fee schedule as the County. Enforcement of city ordinances which differ substantially from the County ordinance and which result in an increase to PHS’ costs shall be reimbursed directly from the city requiring special services to PHS, as negotiated between the city and PHS. Under the existing ordinance, all cities maintain a substantially similar animal control ordinance that does not require additional services from PHS. After approval from the Board of Supervisors, each city will be required to adopt the revised ordinance within 60 days. The ordinance will become effective Countywide thirty days from the date of adoption by the last of the twenty cities.
While the existing dangerous animal ordinance provides vigorous controls over animals posing a threat to public safety, County, city and PHS staff sought to tighten existing regulations. Through a series of meetings with the Animal Control Task Force, which included representatives from all cities and PHS, a revised ordinance was developed. Under both the existing and revised ordinances, animal control staff has the latitude to declare an animal “dangerous,” which means the animal owner may maintain the animal under a set of strict conditions under the jurisdiction of a dangerous animal permit. The dangerous animal designation generally follows an incident involving an attack to another animal or a relatively minor bite to a human. Animal control staff also has the authority to impound and euthanize an animal that has committed an attack of an egregious nature. Should an animal owner disagree with the dangerous animal declaration or intent to impound and euthanize an animal, they may request a hearing to dispute the charge. The revised ordinance follows this existing system, yet allows for more stringent regulations on dangerous animals, clarifies the hearing procedure, and cleans up various provisions of the ordinance.
Current state laws prohibit cities and counties from passing breed specific ordinances. There is currently a bill pending at the state level which would allow local jurisdictions to adopt an ordinance mandating spay/neuter and breeding permits for certain breeds of dogs. Should this state legislation be enacted, the County and cities may opt to pass additional revisions regarding spay/neuter and breeding permits on a breed specific basis. As of the writing of this memo, the bill had passed the Assembly and will now move on to the Senate.
The following is a summary of changes contained in the revised ordinance:
• Clarify the definition of animal “owner” as the person over 18 years of age who holds the license to the animal, or if animal is unlicensed, the person who has primary responsibility to care for the animal.
• Clarify the definition of “dangerous animal” including automatically defining any animal declared dangerous, potentially dangerous, vicious or any other similar term in another jurisdiction as dangerous in San Mateo County. These animals may be maintained in the County with a Dangerous Animal Permit.
• Add the definition of a “vicious animal:” any animal previously designated as dangerous found violating the dangerous animal permit; any animal seized under state laws prohibiting dog fighting; any animal which inflicts severe injury on or kills a human being or another animal; or any animal which represents a clear and present substantial threat to public safety and is unlikely to be safely maintained under a dangerous animal permit. These animals are to be euthanized unless a hearing is requested and the vicious animal declaration overturned.
• Add a definition of “severe injury”
6.04.020 Animal Control Program
• Update references to state penal codes regarding the scope of authority of Humane Officers and Animal Control Officers.
6.04.100 Permit for Dangerous Animals
• Clarify any animal declared dangerous for which a permit has not been obtained shall be surrendered to Animal Control.
• Add language allowing any interested person to request a hearing should Animal Control investigate an incident and determine an animal is not dangerous.
• Add language stating the Animal Control Officer or Hearing Officer may take into account any mitigating factors such as provocation, willful trespass of the victim or threatening actions on the part of the victim into account in making a dangerous animal declaration.
• Add language stating should the animal owner not request a hearing within five days of the Animal Control Officer’s dangerous animal designation, the hearing process is deemed waived by the owner and the decision considered final by the County and/or city having jurisdiction.
6.04.105 Declaration of vicious animals
• Add a new section in its entirety regulating the declaration of animals as vicious. An animal declared vicious cannot be maintained in San Mateo County. The investigation and hearing process for vicious animals mirrors the process for dangerous animals.
6.04.110 Issuance of permit for dangerous animal
• Move language to this section stating dangerous animal permits are not transferable and are subject to renewal and approval each year
6.04.115 Hearing Procedures
• Add a new section in its entirety regulating the hearing procedures for both dangerous and vicious animal hearings, including: timeframes for scheduling hearings; city use of County hearing officers; hearing procedures; exclusion of disruptive persons; issuance of a decision in the absence of the animal owner; timeframes of hearing decisions; costs of hearing made billable to animal owner; and decision options available to the hearing officer.
• Add language stating the hearing officer may find an animal vicious and the owner shall lose possession of the animal or dangerous and a mandatory permit must be obtained. The hearing officer may also require a permit be obtained containing all or several of the following additional restrictions: the animal must be muzzled when off the owner’s property; the owner must provide a certificate of insurance; the owner must provide behavioral training to the animal; the owner must reimburse the victim for medical or veterinary expenses; or any other permit requirement the Hearing Officer deems necessary to protect public safety.
6.04.120 Mandatory dangerous animal permit requirements
• Add the owner shall not keep a dangerous animal in a house or structure when windows or doors are open or screen doors are the only obstacles preventing the animal from exiting the structure.
• Move language to this section stating the owner shall open the premises where the animal is maintained for inspection upon request.
• Add the owner must have a dangerous animal spay/neutered within 15 days of permit issuance, unless a licensed and practicing veterinarian proves the animal cannot endure the surgery for medical reasons.
• Move language to this section stating the owner may not transfer a dangerous animal without 24-hour notice before transfer. Should the owner wish to transfer the animal to another individual in San Mateo County, the new owner must submit to a property inspection and comply with the permit requirements.
• Add no more than two dangerous animals may be kept at any one household
• Add no animal declared dangerous due to aggression to humans may be maintained in a household in which a juvenile person under the age of 18 resides.
• Move language to this section stating the owner must notify Animal Control within 24-hours of the animal’s death, and produce the body if requested. The owner must also notify Animal Control if the animal is lost or stolen.
• Add the owner must pay all permit and property inspection fees
6.04.130 Misdemeanor violations
• Add language stating that any person violating any provision of the Chapter is guilty of an infraction, with the exception of the following misdemeanors: maintaining a dangerous animal without a permit or harboring a vicious animal. This allows Animal Control to process minor violations (e.g. not having a warning sign posted on a gate) without needing the assistance of the city attorney or district attorney.
6.04.140 Possession of animals after revocation of dangerous animal permit or
• Add an owner determined in possession of a vicious animal or a dangerous animal with a revoked permit may not be granted any dangerous animal permit for three years.
6.04.150 Inspection fee
• Move language stating a fee will be charged to the animal owner for costs associated with inspection of property
6.04.160 Revocation or modification of permit
• Clarify the process for revocation or modification of dangerous animal permits due to a violation of the permit’s requirements, including clarification of the hearing procedure and timeframe
• Allow the Animal Control Officer or Hearing Officer to modify a permit by adding additional requirements
• Clarify owner must surrender an animal within two days if a permit is revoked, or provide written proof the animal has been removed from the County
6.04.170 Animals to be impounded
• Clarify any animal suspected of being dangerous or vicious my be impounded for up to fifteen days or pending a hearing
6.04.180 Notice of impounded animals
• Clarify upon impoundment of an animal, written notice shall be provided to the owner, and the owner may request a hearing
6.04.190 Record of impounded animals
• Clarify Animal Control shall keep records of all impounded animals
• Clarify the owner of an impounded animal may redeem the animal by paying any requisite fees
The ordinance revision also contains numerous clerical “clean-ups” throughout.
County Counsel has reviewed the ordinance and finds it in order.
The ordinance raises the limit on hearing fees from $250 to $350. Since the number and cost of hearings varies, this change may result in approximately $1,500 in additional revenue that will be used to offset the County and cities’ Animal Control costs.