Setting the record straight…or at least telling “the rest of the story” as we used to hear from Paul Harvey. We also hope that through telling this story, the public may learn a little more about animal control officer duties and the state law.
In a recent post on Nevada County Peeps an incident related to a report of a potentially dangerous dog was characterized as a mishandling by animal control officers. In fact, it was asserted that the animal control division of the Grass Valley Police Department are “out of control”. Without diving into things to deeply, as the appropriate place for that is in the Civil Court where the upcoming hearing will be held, let’s examine the grounds for referring this case to the Court in the first place.
1. On April 16, 2018 Animal Control received a complainant regarding a Standard Black Poodle that lunged, barked, and growled at the complainant. Contact was made with the parties and the Poodle owner was counselled on the potential for this to become a more serious issue and was provided the name of a trainer who could possibly help with anti-aggression training of the dog.
2. On August 27, 2018 Animal Control received another complaint, by the same complaining party, reporting that the Poodle had barked and lunged at him again, showing teeth and threatening him. An investigation was conducted, including contacting witnesses and attempting to locate possible video surveillance, which did not exist.
3. The California Food and Agriculture Code identifies a “potentially dangerous dog” as any of the following: “Any dog which, when unprovoked, on two separate occasions within the prior 36-month period, engages in any behavior that requires a defensive action by any person to prevent bodily injury…”
Note: “Potentially dangerous” and “vicious” are two separate classifications. This is a case of hearing related to a “potentially dangerous” dog.
4. Section 31621 of the California Food and Agriculture Code states, “If an animal control officer or a law enforcement officer has investigated and determined that there exists probable cause to believe that a dog is potentially dangerous or vicious… [they] shall petition the superior court of the county wherein the dog is owned or kept for a hearing for the purposed of determining whether or not the dog in question should be declared potentially dangerous or vicious.
5. The complainant in this case has every right and should feel comfortable calling his local authorities for assistance. His physical conditions limit his abilities to take “defensive action” in that he is bound to a wheelchair. The appropriate action is to allow a finder of fact (the Court of law – civil laws in this case) to make a determination based on evidence presented and the totality of the circumstances. This hearing is due to occur in Court soon.
6. The Grass Valley Animal Control division does not have a vested interest in the outcome of the case other than to provide testimony and/or evidence collected during the investigation.
7. Calls by advocacy groups or individuals to “drop the charges” is contrary to due process for the complainant and the law is clear on the process and the obligations of Animal Control officers.
We trust the court process to do its job. The men and women of the Grass Valley Police Department and the Animal Control division will continue to do their job as prescribed by law and pursuant to our oath of office.