Pasadena City Council to consider ordinance requiring pit bulls be spayed or neutered

A photo of a pit bull taken at the Pasadena Humane Society on Sept. 24, 2013.
A photo of a pit bull taken at the Pasadena Humane Society on Sept. 24, 2013.
Nuran Alteir/KPCC

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The Pasadena City Council will consider Monday an ordinance that would mandate that all pit bulls and pit bull mixes be spayed or neutered unless the dog qualifies for an exemption.

The proposed ordinance (which can be read in full below) would require all pit bulls and pit bull cross breeds older than 4 months to undergo the procedure. It classifies a pit bull dog as any Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, American Stafford Terrier or any dog that includes one or more of these breeds.

The first violation would be an infraction. Any subsequent violations would be a misdemeanor.

Pasadena City Council Member Steve Madison introduced the ordinance last year after determining the city could not ban specific dog breeds.

“Every month or two you read about a pit bull killing a toddler or a senior,” he said during a November city council meeting.

All but one city council member, Jacque Robinson, voted to move forward with future hearings to consider the proposal. The council is now scheduled to hold its first vote on the proposed law.

A staff report found pit bulls comprise "a disproportionately high number of unwanted dogs in Pasadena.” Approximately 27 percent of dogs euthanized at the Pasadena Humane Society are pit bulls and pit bull mixes. They also make up 10 percent of dogs adopted out of the shelter, according to the report.

“If you walk into the kennels, you would see a lot of pit bulls and pit bull mixes,” said Elizabeth Campo, senior vice president of the Pasadena Humane Society.

She said a lot of apartments and landlords don’t allow tenants to keep certain dog breeds.

“Pit bulls are on that list and because of that a lot of people won’t take them,” Campo said.

The Pasadena Humane Society – which has a contract with the city to enforce animal ordinances and responds to animal calls – has told the city council it prefers a spay and neuter ordinance that would be aimed at all dogs and cats in order to address overpopulation and safety.

“To just focus on one breed, you’re possibly leaving behind other breeds,” Campo said. “This is a trend breed right now. You'll always be chasing a trend.”

The proposed ordinance directs the humane society to act as the agency that would determine if a dog is a pit bull or pit bull mix. A person would be able to appeal the determination with a hearing officer, which could be the city manager or a person designated by the city manager. 

It also directs the Pasadena's mayor to send letters to the state legislature asking it to change a state law that prohibits municipal governments from banning specific breeds.

Campo said that in nine years, the human society has not responded to a fatality caused by a pit bull. They did respond to one fatality in 2005 in Glendale caused by a Rottweiler-type dog.

Madison, the Pasadena council member, previously told the city council that even though pit bulls make up a small percentage of dogs that bite, they make up a larger percentage of dogs that kill and he believes the ordinance can help prevent a fatality.

“We want to act before you have to respond to a pit bull attack,” Madison told the Pasadena Humane Society at the council meeting. “We want to stop it before it happens here.”

The proposed ordinance is modeled after a similar ordinance passed by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors last year.

Exemptions to the proposed spay/neuter ordinance would be given to pit bulls used by law enforcement, trained as service dogs, or that are in a condition that the surgery could harm or kill them. Also exempt are pit bulls competing in shows recognized by a national dog breed organization, such as the American Kennel Club.

Proposed Pasadena Pit Bull Ordinance