(LOS ANGELES) -- What do you do with 3,000 unwanted pit bulls?
Riverside County, Calif., just east of Los Angeles, felt forced to euthanize that many each year, according to John Benoit, a member of the county’s board of supervisors.
Now, the county is hoping an ordinance passed on Tuesday that requires all pit bulls more than 4 months old in the unincorporated part of the county to be spayed or neutered will cut down on the number put to death.
“I think we’re a long way off before their image is changed and more people will adopt them -- but our end goal is to reduce the attacks on people and reduce the amount of euthanized pit bulls,” Benoit told ABC News.
Even so, some pit bull owners don’t think the new ordinance will solve the problem.
“Passing a fear-based law such as this one is only the beginning and opens up the door to an almost certain proposal of banning or killing pit bulls in this county,” said Riverside County resident Veronica Hernandez, the owner of a pit bull mix, at the public hearing discussing the ordinance.
She thinks punishing irresponsible owners is the solution.
Best Friends Animal Society, a national organization based in Utah, also objects to breed-specific legislation. Ledy VanKavage, a senior attorney for the group, said it supports spaying and neutering pets, but not making it mandatory for certain breeds. That, she said, would lead to more euthanasia.
“Some people can’t afford it, and if there aren’t free services,” VanKavage told ABC News, “they’ll turn in their dogs and they’ll be euthanized.”
Best Friends Animal Society, much like Hernandez, supports reckless owner laws that specifically punish owners when their pets misbehave, VanKavage said.
Benoit believes the pit bull can be a dangerous breed, but he knows of people who train them well and can have the dogs in a family home.
“I don’t believe that attacks come from the average pit bull,” he said. “I think that’s a rogue number of dogs.”
Riverside County impounds about 3,500 to 4,000 pit bulls every year, including dogs who have been abandoned, ones whose owners were afraid of what they might be capable of, and ones found in fighting rings, according to John Welsh of the Riverside County’s Department of Animal Services
Welsh told ABC News that 80 percent of the pit bulls impounded are not spayed or neutered. He believed the idea for a mandatory fixing was sparked by recent attacks in the area. A few weeks ago, for instance, a 2-year-old boy was mauled to death by his grandmother’s pit bull in the town of Colton, Calif., which is in the county next to Riverside.
“In general, animal control people have a strong belief that a fixed dog is less likely to bust through a fence and chase down a kid on a skateboard,” Welsh said.
Exempt from the forced fixing ordinance are law enforcement dogs, assistance dogs and licensed and registered breeders.
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