The Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Learn About Dog Laws In Los Angeles

Did you know that you could possibly face criminal charges in Los Angeles if your dog attacks someone?

The most famous example is the 2002 Diane Whipple case, where a 33-year-old lacrosse coach was mauled to death in San Francisco by at least one of her neighbor's dogs. The dogs' owners were convicted of murder after being tried here in Los Angeles.

Though the odds of the Whipple case happening again are slim, it is important to be proactive.

What are the laws in L. A. that protect you, your dog, and your neighbors? Here is some of what you need to know:

1. Sterilization Laws

Here in Los Angeles County, it is required by law that you sterilize your dog if you live in an unincorporated part of the county. Cities generally make their own rules and decide whether to adopt L.A. County rules, so you'll need to double check to see if your city is on the list.

Dogs over four months and not registered as either a breeder or an actively competing show dog are required to be neutered or spayed. The city has added pressure to sterilize your dogs by setting the license fee for an unaltered pet at $100. An altered pet only costs $15.

Note that if you fail to comply, fines will be issued. The county has recently hired people to make extensive checks for licensed dogs.

2. Vicious Dog Laws

L.A. County recently updated the criteria for "vicious" dogs. Previously, a dog had to cause lacerations, fractures, or muscle damage to be considered vicious. Now, do they simply have to bark really loud and scare you? All kidding aside, the new language more vaguely refers to "injury or illness" instead of the previous specific criteria, reports the Los Angeles Times. The county will also be able to check with other counties to see if the dog has previously been determined vicious.

If your dog has a tendency to bite or act aggressively towards strangers in public, again, be proactive! A little extra training for the pup now could save his life and possibly the life of a stranger.

3. Barking Laws

Though the penalites for barking ordinances are the least severe, they are also the most likely to get you into trouble. Occasional barking is fine; these rules are meant to punish people who have poorly trained dogs that bark constantly and without provocation.

If your dog is a chronic barker, you need get help. Fines start at $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second, and $1000 for a third. Not only will dog training save you from a fine, but your neighbors will be much less likely to hate you.

To summarize, if you are a dog owner in Los Angeles County, you need to do the following. First, get your dog sterilized. Second, register the dog with the county. Third, if your dog shows a tendency towards aggression or constant barking, it needs additional training. Some breeds are inherently loud or more aggressive, but proper training can make nearly any dog well behaved.

Happy dog, happy owner!

This post is part of FindLaw's Legal U series. We are working to help you learn what to do in your city to cope with some of the legal problems, questions, or issues that come up in daily life. Please come back to learn more from future posts in this series.

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