In light of a 63-year-old woman being mauled to death by pit bulls in the high desert community of Littlerock, Calif., the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Tuesday asked staffers to evaluate a proposed change in the county's definition of a dangerous dog.
Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who said "four killer pit bulls" attacked Pamela Devitt, called for the change.
An ordinance defines a "potentially dangerous dog" as one that has killed, bitten or injured an animal off the dog owner's property. Only cats and dogs qualify as animal victims for purposes of the law. Antonovich asked staff to look at adding livestock, including horses, to that definition.
California state law only allows breed-specific legislation related to mandatory spay/neuter laws or breeding. It does not allow an outright ban on possessing a particular breed.
Devitt, a resident of Littlerock, near Palmdale, was attacked at about 9:30 a.m. Thursday near 116th Street east and Avenue S. A motorist who saw the attack honked, hoping to scare the dogs away. Instead, they tried to attack the car, biting at its tires, according to sheriff's Lt. John Corina.
Devitt could not be saved.
Littlerock residents have been afraid of loose dogs for some time and two weeks ago, a pack of dogs attacked a horse and a woman riding it, according to ABC7.
Tips from the public in the Devitt case led deputies to a home in the 37300 block of 115th Street in Littlerock where confiscated eight dogs -- six pit bulls and two mixed breeds.
Deputies arrested 29-year-old Alex Jackson for allegedly growing pot on the property.
Department of Animal Care and Control Director Marcia Mayeda told the board Tuesday that the department gets about 10,000 calls every year about "biting and vicious dogs." Of the 300 cases of "potentially dangerous dogs" handled since January 2012, 56 percent involved pit bulls.
Animal control workers handled a complaint at the Littlerock residence in question in January and cited the owner for violations of the ordinance requiring dogs to have rabies shots and be microchipped, but did not determine that any of his dogs were potentially dangerous,
In April, workers went out to talk to someone said to be a victim of an attack by one or more of the same owner's dogs, but despite repeated requests, the victim wasn't willing to make a statement until last night, according to Mayeda. So no other citations were issued.
Phyllis Daugherty, director of the Animal Issues Movement, told the board she excludes pit bulls from her efforts to rescue dogs and find them new homes.
"This dog was never designed to be a pet," Daugherty said, telling two stories about babies killed by the breed and 240 goats recently attacked and killed by a pack of 10 of the dogs in Stockton. "The reason this is persisting is because of the dog fighting industry and the no kill movement," she told the board. "Strange bedfellows."
Advocates for the breed say owners, not pit bulls, are the problem. They say the dogs used to be considered child friendly and there were almost no reports of vicious pit bulls prior to the 1980s when dog fighting took off as an industry and pit bulls became the breed of choice.
DNA tests will determine if the dogs in custody attacked Devitt.
The board directed staffers to report back in June on revising the ordinance as well as increasing the number of animal control officers in the Antelope Valley.