This pit bull was adopted from the county shelter. Photo courtesy of John Welsh, Riverside County Animal Services
Mandatory sterilization of all pit bull-type dogs was on the agenda of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors Tuesday, April 9.

More than 20 percent of the dogs impounded at county facilities are pit bulls. Their adoption and redemption rates are very low, according to Robert Miller, director of Riverside County’s Animal Services Department.

He is asking the board for authorization to draft a proposed ordinance that would require the spaying or neutering of these animals.

The current county ordinance requires sterilization only after citations have been issued for violations of the basic tenants of pet ownership, Miller wrote the board.

However, after several incidents of individuals being attacked by pit bulls, Miller is moving forward with a more aggressive requirement. Since January, three incidents have occurred in Riverside County. All three involved elderly women. In February, two pit bulls killed a 91-year-old woman in Hemet. A month later, a pit bull attacked a 76-year-old woman in San Jacinto and she was seriously injured.

“At this point, we don’t know the language or how it will be enforced,” said John Welsh, senior public information specialist for the Riverside County Animal Services Department. “It’s likely to be similar to ordinances passed in nearby jurisdictions, such as San Bernardino.”

The San Bernardino County ordinance was enacted in 2010. The cities of Highland and Yucaipa have passed similar legislation.

In the past month, the Beaumont City Council has held public hearings on its proposed ordinance regarding actions to take with potentially dangerous dogs. Spaying or neutering the animal is among the possible actions, including confinement and muzzling.

Many others argue that pit bull-type dogs are being stereotyped, similar to racial profiling. Early in the 20th century pit bull terriers were very popular and one was part of early filmdom’s “Lil’ Rascals” movies.

Defenders argue that pit bull-types can be trained to be more aggressive just as any breed can be trained. Aggressiveness is not inherent in the breed but emphasized through the human training and lack of care.

“Dog bites are one of the most preventable injuries,” Welsh said. “It doesn’t have to happen. Keep your yard secure and alter your pet. A fixed dog has less propensity to roam and be aggressive.”

State Law (A.B. 861) authorizes local governments to enact dog breed-specific ordinances.