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County puts teeth in aggressive animal ordinance

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It will soon be a crime to keep an unsecured dangerous animal in San Luis Obispo County.

SLO County supervisors on April 10 passed a revised ordinance that cracks down on careless owners of aggressive animals. The ordinance was passed on a 4-1 vote, with Supervisor Frank Mecham voting against the proposed language. The ordinance will take effect 30 days after it was passed.

It was the third hearing on the proposed ordinance, which puts in place fines against people who fail to secure dangerous and aggressive animals. Though supervisors unanimously supported carrying forward new rules to penalize people who fail to secure their aggressive animals, Mecham voted against the ordinance because of sections that give the county discretion to hold landlords liable if their tenants fail to abide by the new law.

The ordinance passed handily with a majority of supervisors who said they felt the language is imperfect, but will provide some protection to the public. Under current rules, county animal control officers have no authority to penalize pet owners whose animals are overly aggressive and have the potential to escape their holdings. In fact, officials are currently unable to penalize owners even if their animal kills another animal, at least on a first offense, according to Animal Services Manager Eric Anderson.

After the new rules take place, animal control officers will be able to impose fines ranging from $100 to a maximum of $500 for repeat offenders. However, officials will give a 14-day notice before any fines are imposed.

“This does give us something that can prevent some of the more common aggressive behaviors,” Supervisor Adam Hill said.

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