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Pit Bull Attack Brings Effort to Toughen Law

June 27, 1987|CRAIG QUINTANA | Times Staff Writer

Los Angeles officials, prompted by the mauling of an animal control officer by a pit bull terrier, said Friday that the city's vicious-dog ordinance should be strengthened.

A draft ordinance that will come before the City Council within two weeks would do just that. It would allow animal control officers to immediately impound a dog that has bitten someone, said Michael Burns, district supervisor for the Animal Regulation Department. Currently, officers can only pick up dogs that are roaming.

"Right now, we (animal control) can't do anything, even if it killed someone," Burns said. "At least this allows us to get the dog off the street."

By impounding the dog, officers could evaluate its disposition and conduct hearings to determine if the dog poses a threat to the community, Burns said. The ordinance, first proposed a year543254383an animal, allowing the department to avoid going to court.

Backed by Bradley

Deputy Mayor Grace Davis, who joined other officials at a City Hall news conference, said the ordinance has the backing of Mayor Tom Bradley.

Officials urged the district attorney's office to file felony criminal charges against Edlyn Joy Hauser, a 37-year-old Glassell Park resident whose pit bull attacked Animal Control Officer Florence Crowell on Monday.

Robert Rush, Animal Regulation Department general manager, said Hauser's dog, Benjamin, was being held as evidence in the attack and not directly under animal control authority. Nonetheless, he said officials will seek permission to destroy the animal.

"I'm convinced that felony charges are in order," said Councilman Hal Bernson, the sponsor of the ordinance.

Misdemeanor Counts

On Thursday, the city attorney filed seven misdemeanor counts, including assault with a deadly weapon, against Hauser. Deputy City Atty. Alice Hand said the city attorney was precluded from filing felony charges.

Hauser, who was arrested, posted $5,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned July 17. She could face up to five years in jail and a maximum fine of $34,000.

Crowell, who is still recovering at Glendale Memorial Hospital with injuries to her hands and chest, was investigating the dog's Sunday evening attack on Hauser's neighbors when she was mauled. The incident was filmed by a television crew.

In another case, the city attorney's office announced that the owner of a pit bull that attacked two people last November in Sun Valley pleaded guilty Friday to allowing a dangerous animal to run loose and was banned from owning a dog for three years.

Judith Miller, 24, also agreed to pay $3,900 restitution to Marcella Larsen for surgery she underwent after the Nov. 14 attack. Previously, Miller had paid another woman $110 for injuries inflicted by the dog in a separate attack. Van Nuys Municipal Judge Alan Ellis also ordered Miller to complete 100 hours of community service.

General Hysteria

Animal control officials noted that the recent rash of pit bull attacks have created a general hysteria about the breed. Although the dogs have gained notoriety, officials say it may be exaggerated, and that the dogs make safe pets in the right hands.

Rush pronounced the situation "ludicrous," adding that his department has been swamped with calls from citizens who fear any stray dog might be a deadly killer.

The county Animal Care and Control Department has had 40 pit bulls turned in through Thursday, 21 by their owners, said George Baca, chief deputy director. He said the dogs would be kept a week and then destroyed.

Meanwhile, a woman in Turlock, Calif., killed a neighbor's pit bull that she said was about to attack her.

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