The new amendment is more stringent and less tolerant of so-called dangerous dogs and redefines what is considered an aggressive dog. It also re-defines what is considered a severe injury from aggressive dogs.
Previously, Dept. of Animal Care and Control officers had to pursue limited civil action in L.A. Superior Court to have a dog in their jurisdiction deemed dangerous.
Animal Control advocated for the changes because they wanted to lower the tolerance of aggressive dog behavior. Unfortunately there are stories of aggressive animals needing to be put down because they had an irresponsible owner, and advocates say that dog attacks have been on the rise in the county.
Last month a 75-year-old woman was nearly mauled to death when she went outside to get her morning newspaper and her neighbor's two dogs got through a hole in the fence. The woman was hospitalized in serious condition and survived.
One of the amendments proposed says a dog would not even need to bite someone to cause severe injury. For example if a dog charges at a person and that person suffers a heart attack because of it, that dog could be declared dangerous and be monitored by the county and in some cases taken from the owner.
"They don't all rise to the level of an attack or a vicious dog," said L.A. County Animal Control Director Marcia Mayeda. "People get bitten by their own animal by accident when they are playing ball. But what we look at is when an animal unprovoked causes harm or injury, or a person has to take evasive action. If a dog is charging at you down the street and you have to hop onto a car to get out of the way, that's a potentially dangerous dog."
County officials say the changes would also help protect more docile animals that are attacked. They also want to be able to better track aggressive dogs.
They also want to expedite the process, by taking dangerous dogs cases out of Superior Court when appropriate and using an administrative hearing option, which is faster and cheaper.
The changes to L.A. County code may encourage dog owners to keep an extra eye on their pets to make sure they are socialized, and to make sure they can't get out of the yard when unsupervised.