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County Enhances Protections Against Dangerous Dogs

Law Focuses on Making Owners Responsible for Their Dogs’ Actions

SAN JOSÉ, CALIF. – Concerned over several recent dog attacks on children and adults in the area, Supervisor Ken Yeager called for strengthened local protections against potentially dangerous dogs. Today, the Board of Supervisors enacted policies to bolster owners’ responsibility for their dogs’ actions.

“We shouldn’t wait for a more serious tragedy to strike in our unincorporated areas before we react,” said Yeager. “We need to be more proactive in preventing serious injuries to our residents.”

Today’s Board action expands on the County’s existing dog safety laws. Specifically, the new law:

  • Expands authority of County staff to declare a dog as “potentially dangerous” following a single
    attack on another domestic animal; and
  • Requires those walking “potentially dangerous” dogs to be over 18 and physically capable of
    controlling the animal; and
  • Increases the amount of liability insurance a “potentially dangerous” dog owner must carry from
    $50,000 to $100,000.

Furthermore, the County will explore new voluntary measures to reduce dog bites and attacks, including:

  • Developing a pilot project to teach elementary school children how to better interact with dogs and
    prevent dog bites; and
  • Expanding the County’s limited free spay/neuter program to include all dogs that reach 45 pounds or
    greater in adulthood.

Under existing law, the County’s Animal Care and Control Department has the power to declare a dog as “potentially dangerous” if it shows a pattern of aggression toward people or other domestic animals. The expanded law will allow staff to identify “potentially dangerous” dogs sooner and require owners to take preventive measures against attacks. This includes proper home confinement, use of a leash and muzzle by an adult who can handle the dog while on walks, and adequate liability insurance.

Through service agreements with twelve private veterinary clinics, the County funds a voluntary Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Program. Currently, that program also offers limited free spay/neuter surgeries for pit bull-type dogs. Expansion of that program will encourage even more responsible dog ownership. The County of Santa Clara accepts donations to its Low-Cost Spay/Neuter Program through its web-site at

While making dog owners more responsible is critical to reducing dog attacks, public education is also important. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research has found that adults and children can learn to reduce their chances of being bitten. A 1998 pilot program by the Nevada Department of Agriculture that taught first graders proper behavior when interacting with dogs brought incidents of dog bite victims seeking medical treatment down by 11%. A similar program in Santa Clara County could prevent even more injuries.

“My goal from the beginning was to protect our residents from dangerous dogs,” said Yeager. “In the end, we have a law that is comprehensive and effective.”

The dog population in unincorporated Santa Clara County is estimated at 20,300. Animal Care and Control officers investigate approximately 110 reported incidents of dogs biting humans each year in unincorporated Santa Clara County. Approximately one to two of those bites per year are unprovoked and severe. Language for the new ordinances must be heard by the Board of Supervisors two more times. The laws will take effect 60 days after that.

Media Contact: Jim Weston, District 4 Communications Aide, (408) 299-5040 [w] / (408) 817-0278 [c]
Posted: May 10, 2011