Our View: Time is right to update city’s animal codes

Our View
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This week the Auburn City Council’s Monday meeting drew a crowd of pitbull supporters who oppose a proposed amendment to city code that would require pitbulls be spayed or neutered. The amendment also takes a look at limiting the number of dogs Auburn residents can keep in their homes. Opponents say pitbull-specific legislation is unfair to a breed that gets a bad rap in the media. Proponents argue that after two pitbull attacks in Auburn within a year, it’s time for the city to do something. While there is some merit to targeting pitbull populations based on shelter crowding, the city should take an overall approach to amending its animal codes and focus on enforcing responsible pet ownership for all. The city should update its code to require that all dogs be spayed or neutered and apply the same exceptions that it proposes on its amendment to pitbulls. Those exceptions include show dogs, dogs younger than 6 months old, dogs living in Auburn for less than a month, dogs with a current breeding permit and dogs who might be harmed or killed by spay or neuter. This code would be in line with area shelters, many of which only adopt out spayed or neutered animals. Shelter volunteers and spokespeople have lamented before about overcrowded kennels. In November, the Placer Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals received a grant that allowed them to offer vouchers for free spay or neuter of pitbulls and pitbull mixes. Leilani Vierra, CEO of the Placer SPCA, said at the time the grant would help, especially since shelters were seeing a “disproportionally higher” number of pitbulls over other canines in their care. However, Vierra said she’s noticed over the years that different breeds crowd shelters at different times. In the 1970s there was an influx of cocker spaniels waiting for adoption, and then it changed to German shepherds and doberman pinschers. Requiring pets to be spayed or neutered would be a step in the right direction to help diminish some of the overcrowding in our local shelters and promote responsible pet ownership. It’s an ordinance the City of Los Angeles made into law in February 2008, which drew support from shelters in the area. The city should also move forward with plans to enforce dog ownership limitations. On Monday, the council considered a two-dog ban per household. Later this week, council members said they would like to tailor the amendment to reflect Placer County’s current rules. Those limitations cap ownership at four dogs per single-family home but allow for more based on the size of a home and the acreage it sits on. This code would allow the city to enforce any noise complaints related to dogs and help allay any fears in town that homeowners with multiple dogs — including pitbull owners — are breeding an arsenal of fighting canines. Recent attacks have added to the perception — and reality — that some dogs are vicious and the city needs to update its codes to allow for oversight and room to enforce responsible pet ownership. However, the city should take a stand on all dog breeds and apply the rules equally.