Riverside County Dog Bite Laws
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Riverside is one of the few counties in California that have enacted breed-specific legislation. While it is illegal for governmental agencies in California to ban entire breeds of dogs, Riverside County requires mandatory spaying and neutering of pit bull breeds, which are statistically proven to have been involved in a disproportionately high number of fatal dog attacks. Here are some of the county's ordinances aimed at protecting the public from dangerous or vicious dogs.
6.08.125 - Requiring the mandatory spaying and neutering of pit bull breeds.
A. Findings.1. In recent years, pit bulls comprise a disproportionately high number of unwanted dogs in the county, accounting for twenty (20) percent of shelter dogs and thirty (30) percent of dogs euthanized in the county. 2. While the majority of pit bull owners are responsible and take appropriate measures to ensure that their dogs do not have unwanted offspring, there is a need to mitigate the large number of unwanted pit bulls in the county. 3. Restricting the maintenance of and breeding of intact pit bulls and requiring the spaying and neutering of pit bulls will not prevent responsible pet owners and pet breeders from owning, breeding, or showing pit bull breeds.
B. Purpose. To protect the public's health and welfare from irresponsible owners of pit bulls by mitigating the over population of unwanted pit bulls.
C. Authority. This section is adopted pursuant to Health and Safety Code section 122331, which authorizes counties to enact mandatory breed specific spay/neutering programs.
D. Exemptions. The following pit bulls are exempt from the regulations described in this section:1. Currently licensed pit bulls whose owners are registered breeders with the county's department of animal services. 2. A pit bull that has been appropriately trained and is actually being used by a public law enforcement agency for law enforcement purposes. 3. A pit bull that is an assistance dog as defined in Food and Agricultural Code section 30850. 4. A pit bull which has been certified by a licensed veterinarian as having a health reason for not being spayed/neutered. 5. A pit bull which is in training at a licensed kennel and is currently licensed by the owner in another jurisdiction. The owner of the pit bull has the burden of showing that said pit bull is licensed in another jurisdiction. 6. A dog that is pending a breed determination when the dog owner or custodian requests such a determination in accordance with subsection F. of this section.
E. Definitions. As used in this section, the following terms shall have the following meanings: "County." County of Riverside. "Department." County of Riverside Department of Animal Control. "Pit bull." Any Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, or American Stafford Terrier breed of dog, or any mixed breed of dog which contains, as an element of its breeding, any of these breeds so as to be identifiable as partially of one or more of these breeds.
F. Determination of breed.1. Upon written request of any dog owner or custodian, the department's chief veterinarian or designee will schedule a breed determination appointment to determine whether a dog is a pit bull. 2. The department shall mail the requesting dog owner or custodian written notice of the date, time, and place for the appointment not less than ten (10) days before the appointment date. The appointment date shall be no more than thirty (30) days after the department's receipt of the request for a breed determination. 3. The department shall mail written results of breed determination to the requesting owner or custodian within ten (10) days after the appointment 4. The above mentioned breed determination results are prima facie evidence of the facts stated therein. On appeal, the dog owner or custodian appealing a breed determination has the burden to show that the dog is not a pit bull. 5. If the dog owner or custodian is cited for violation of this section after the department has determined that the dog is a pit bull, the citation may be appealed as provided in subsection H. of this section.
G. Mandatory spay neutering of pit bull breed dogs. No person shall own or possess a pit bull over the age of four (4) months that has not been spayed or neutered, except as provided for in subsection D. of this section.
H. Violations and penalties. Any person violating any provision of this section shall be deemed guilty of an infraction or misdemeanor and subject to the same criminal, civil and administrative fines, penalties and costs, including all rights to appeal, as enumerated Riverside County Ordinance ("RCO") No. 630, including any amendments to RCO No. 630 that may occur from time to time. (Ord. No. 921, §§ 1—8, 10-8-2013)
- Because of the increased urbanization of Riverside County the county has experienced increasing numbers of dogs and other animals being kept in close proximity to humans including children.
- The keeping of dogs and other animals in close proximity to adults and children has resulted in increasing incidents of attacks, biting and menacing behavior by such dogs and other animals.
- These incidents now present a public health and safety problem to the residents of this county and increasing numbers of cases have resulted in painful and/or serious injuries to adults and children, death and injuries to other animals, attendant economic losses to county residents, and anxiety to those bitten by unlicensed animals whose vaccination status is therefore not established.
- In an attempt to bring this problem under control, it is necessary to: (1) increase the total number of animals which are licensed and thus properly established to have been vaccinated against rabies; (2) encourage the spaying and neutering of animals, which (a) reduces the number of strays at large and not safely confined, (b) reduce aggressiveness and animals at large, and (c) reduces the financial cost to taxpayers of animal control services; and (3) establish a warning and hearing procedure to put the owners of potentially dangerous, dangerous dogs and other animals on adequate notice to control such animals and to bring about the confinement of such animals and the destruction of those animals where other lesser measures have failed or are inappropriate. (Ord. 771 § 1, 1999)
Whenever, in this chapter or in any resolution or standard adopted by the board of supervisors pursuant to this chapter, the following terms are used, they shall have the meaning ascribed to them in this section, unless it is apparent from the context thereof, that some other meaning is intended. "Attack" means any action by an animal which places a person in danger of immediate bodily harm. "Animal services manner" means the animal services manager of the county or his or her duly authorized representative.
"Dangerous animal" means:
- Any animal which has twice within a forty-eight (48) month period in two separate incidents has, actively pursued, attacked, bitten or otherwise caused a less severe injury than a "substantial injury" (as defined in this section), to another person or animal engaged in a lawful activity;
- Any animal which has once attacked, bitten, or otherwise caused injury to a person or animal engaged in lawful activity, resulting in death or substantial injury;
- Any animal which has been previously declared a potentially dangerous animal and the owner/custodian has failed to restrain the animal as so directed; or
- Any dog which has been declared a "potentially dangerous dog" as defined by California State Law during any legal hearing process.
"Potentially dangerous animal" means:
- Any animal which has once actively pursued, attacked, bitten, or otherwise caused a less severe injury than a "substantial injury" (as defined in this section), to another person engaged in a lawful activity.
- Any animal which has once attacked, bitten, or otherwise caused a less severe injury than a "substantial injury" (as defined in this section), to another animal.
- Any animal which is found actively pursuing livestock, poultry, dogs, cats or animals as defined in Ordinance 534.
"Substantial injury" means a substantial impairment of the physical condition of a person or animal which requires professional medical treatment, including, but not limited to, loss of consciousness; concussion; bone fracture; protracted loss or impairment of function of any bodily member or organ; muscle tears, disfiguring lacerations, punctures, or a wound requiring multiple sutures; or any injury requiring corrective or cosmetic surgery. "Secure enclosure" means a fence or structure suitable to prevent the entry of young children or any part thereof, and which is suitable to confine a potentially dangerous, or dangerous animal in conjunction with other measures which may be taken by the owner or keeper of the animal, or at the direction of the animal services manager. The enclosure shall be designed to prevent the animal from escaping and from preventing an adult or child from coming in contact with the animal. (A chain where a person can walk within the length of the chain, or an electric collar or invisible fence is not a sufficient restraint or enclosure.) "Vicious dog" means:
- Any dog seized under Section 599a of the Penal Code and upon the sustaining of a conviction of the owner or keeper under subdivision (a) of Section 597.5 of the Penal Code.
- Any dog which, when unprovoked, in an aggressive manner, inflicts injury on or kills a human being or animal.
- Any dog previously determined to be and currently listed as a potentially dangerous dog which after its owner or keeper has been notified of this determination, continues the behavior described in Section 31602 of the Food and Agricultural Code or is maintained in violation of Section 31641, 31642 or 31643 of the Food and Agricultural Code. (Ord. 771 § 2, 1999)
6.16.030 Administrative restraint order for potentially dangerous animals.
- If the division of animal control has cause to believe that an animal is a potentially dangerous animal, the animal services manager/designee shall issue a potentially dangerous animal restraint order to the owner(s) or custodian(s) of any such dog or animal that fits the description described in this chapter, of a potentially dangerous animal. The statement shall be served by hand-delivery or certified and first-className mail. The statement shall notify the owner(s) or custodian(s) of such animal(s) that such owner(s) custodian(s) is/are required thereafter at all times to keep such animal(s) in a secure enclosure or provide such other adequate secure restraint as may be specified on the restraint order.
- An owner(s)/custodian(s) of an animal(s) receiving a potentially dangerous animal restraint order may request a hearing on the order by a hearing officer selected by the department director. The request for a hearing must be submitted in writing, during the ten (10) calendar days following the service of the order. Pending such hearing, the animal must be kept in a secure enclosure or adequately restrained as specified in the restraint order.
- Failure of the owner(s)/keeper(s) to request a hearing on the restraint order within the ten (10) day period, or failure to attend or be represented at a scheduled hearing, shall constitute a waiver of the right to a hearing and shall satisfy the hearing requirements provided herein.
- All hearings pursuant to subsection B of this section shall be conducted by the hearing officer who shall not have been directly involved in the subject action. Hearings shall be held not more than ten (10) working days from the date of receipt of the request for the hearing and shall be conducted in an informal manner consistent with due process of law. A hearing may be continued for a period of time not to exceed thirty (30) days if the hearing officer deems such continuance to be necessary and proper. Within ten (10) days after the conclusion of the hearing, the hearing officer shall render, in writing, his or her findings, decision and order thereon and shall give notice of the findings, decision and order to the owner or custodian of the subject animal; service of such notice shall be by mail or hand delivery.
- Costs for successful enforcement of this section shall be recouped from the animal's owner or custodian pursuant to Ordinance 630, Section 21.
- An animal which as been determined to be a potentially dangerous animal following the conclusion of the process described in subsections A through D of this section shall be added to a list of potentially dangerous animals maintained by the division of animal control. Once an animal has been determined to be a potentially dangerous animal, if there are no additional instances of the behavior described in Section 6.16.020(D) within a forty-eight (48) month period from the date of the restraint order, the animal may be removed from the list of potentially dangerous animals by the animal services manager/designee.
6.16.040 Impoundment and abatement of dangerous animals.
The division of animal control is authorized and empowered to impound and/or abate (destroy) any dangerous animal as a public nuisance independently of any criminal prosecution or the results thereof by any means reasonably necessary to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public including, but not limited to, the imposition upon the owner and/or custodian of specific, reasonable restrictions and conditions for the maintenance of the animal. In carrying out an abatement, the division shall follow the procedure established in Ordinance 630, Section 22. Restrictions and/or conditions resulting from abatement proceedings may include, but are not limited to the following:
- Requiring the owner of the animal, possessor of the animal or owner of the premises on which the animal is kept to obtain and maintain liability insurance in the amount of one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000.00) and to furnish a certificate or proof of insurance by which the division shall be notified at least thirty (30) calendar days prior to cancellation or nonrenewal;
- Requirements as to the size, construction and design of structured enclosure for the animal;
- Location of the animal's residence including prior notice of plans to move the animal to another location or to a location outside of Riverside County and obtaining approval from the division of animal control to do so after proper notification of animal regulation in the new jurisdiction;
- Requirements as to type and method of restraints for the animal; including but not limited to leashes, muzzles and confinement in a kennel or other facility;
- Photo identification or permanent marking of the animal for purposes of identification;
- A requirement to obtain a dangerous animal registration and/or requiring a tattoo or micro chip noting the declaration and registration with Riverside County animal control;
- A requirement to alter the animal;
- Requirements to allow inspection of the animal and its enclosure by the division of animal control or any other law enforcement agency without warrant, and to produce upon demand, proof of compliance with such requirements of this section; as may be applicable;
- Obtaining written permission to keep the animal on certain specified premises from the landlord/owner, in the event that the owner/custodian of the dangerous animal is a tenant or occupant on real property where the animal is being kept;
- Any person who violates any provision of this section is guilty of an infraction or misdemeanor, if charged.
6.16.050 Placement of warning signs.
It is unlawful for the owner or person in charge of any animal that has been found to be a potentially dangerous animal, dangerous animal or vicious animal to fail, neglect or to refuse to keep posted in a conspicuous place at or near the entrance to the premises on or within which any dog or animal is kept, a sign having letters at least two inches in width and two inches in height and reading "Beware of vicious dog" or "Beware of vicious ______," as may be appropriate.
6.16.060 Change of ownership, custody and/or location of animal.
- The owner and/or custodian of an animal that is on restriction as above provided and who moves or sells the animal(s), or otherwise transfers the ownership, custody or location of the animals(s), shall, at least fifteen (15) days prior to the actual transfer or removal of the animal, notify the division of animal control in writing of the name, address and telephone number of the proposed, new owner or custodian, and/or the proposed, new location of the animal, and the name and description of the animal(s). The division may prohibit the proposed relocation for cause.
- The owner and/or custodian shall, in addition to the above, notify any new owner or custodian in writing regarding the details of the animal's record, and the terms and conditions for confinement and control of the animal. The transferring owner and/or custodian shall also provide the division with a copy of the notification to the new owner or custodian containing an acknowledgment by the new owner or custodian of his or her receipt of the original notification and acceptance of the terms and conditions. The division may impose different or additional restrictions or conditions upon the new owner or custodian.
- If the animal should die, the owner and/or custodian shall notify the division no later than twenty-four (24) hours thereafter and, upon request, from the division shall produce the animal(s) for verification. If the animal escapes, the owner and/or custodian shall immediately notify the division and make every reasonable effort to recapture the escaped animal.
- An animal that has been declared dangerous or vicious in any legal hearing, as a result of aggressive behavior, outside the confines of Riverside County, may not be relocated in Riverside County.
- Any person who violates any provision of this section is guilty of an infraction or misdemeanor, if charged. (
6.16.070 Possession unlawful without adequate restraint.
It is unlawful for a person to have the custody of or own or possess an animal that is restricted as above provided, unless the animal continues to be restrained or confined to prevent it from being at large or from causing damage to any property or injury to any person or other animal. Any person who violates any imposed restriction is guilty of misdemeanor.
6.16.080 Surrender of animal upon demand.
The owner and/or custodian of any animal on restriction who is in violation of Section 6.16.070 shall surrender such animal to the division of animal control upon demand.
6.16.090 Hearing procedures and charges.
Charges for hearing procedures and costs of confinement at a shelter associated with enforcement under this Ordinance shall be recovered from the animal's owner or custodian as per Sections 21 and 22 of Ordinance 630.
This chapter does not apply to dogs while utilized by any police department or any law enforcement officer in the performance of police work.
6.16.110 Court proceedings.
Nothing in this chapter shall prevent the Riverside County division of animal control or any other party from commencing and maintaining court proceedings for the restriction or destruction of any animal as authorized under Food and Agricultural Code Section 31601 et seq.
If You Have Been Injured
If you or a loved one has been injured in a dog attack, please contact an experienced Riverside County dog bite attorney at Bisnar Chase who can help you better understand your legal rights and options. Our attorneys stay abreast of the constantly changing dog bite laws in different geographic areas. We have successfully helped numerous injured dog bite victims secure maximum compensation for their significant losses.