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Euthnasia Requirements

Following a dog bite, what are the stipulations concerning euthanasia of the attacking dog?

In California, euthanasia can be a consequence of a dog bite attack if the dog in the following circumstances:
• The dog is found to have rabies,
• The dog has bitten a minimum of two people
• The dog has been bred for aggressive fighting
• The dog’s bite and attack has resulted in grave injury.

A formal court hearing is typically required prior to euthanizing the dog, unless the dog is determined to be infected with rabies. The hearing seeks to identify whether to dog continues to be a threat to public health and safety as a result of the demonstrated aggression. It is within anyone’s authority to petition for a court to initiate a hearing process concerning euthanizing a dog. The dog owner is able to present compelling evidence in defense of the dog during this hearing. However, if the court finds that the dog is indeed a continued threat to public safety, it can order to euthanize the animal,
This article discusses euthanizing a dog in California in the context of a dog bite case.

1. When are dogs euthanized after biting someone in California?

In California, a dog that has bitten a person may be euthanized in the following set of circumstances:
• The dog has indications of rabies infection
• The dog has previously bitten a minimum of 2 people
• The dog has very gravely injured or bitten one person, but has a history of being bred for aggression and fighting

Euthanasia is not presented as an option when a dog bites another dog.

1.1. Dogs with indications of rabidity
In California, dogs that are found to have clinical signs of rabidity and rabies infection are euthanized. In the case of rabies infection or diagnosis, no hear is required prior to euthanizing the dog.
Local health officials are notified any time a dog bites a human. This notification typically triggers a 10 day quarantine by the local health authorities. Dogs with high risk of rabies prognosis or infection are often quarantined at an animal shelter or at a veterinarian’s office. Low risk dogs are able to quarantine at the dog owner’s home.
If during this quarantine period, the dog indicates clinical signs of rabies infection, the dog will be euthanized without any kind of formal court hearing. The rabid dog is euthanized in effort to protect the public from threat of rabies infection, which is fatal to humans.
If the dog emerges from quarantine with no signs of rabidity or rabies infection, the dog will be released back to the dog owner.

1.2. Dogs that have a history of having bitten a minimum of 2 people

A dog that has bitten at minimum of 2 people can be euthanized after the procession a court hearing.2
These 2 dog bites must have transpired in separate incidents. A victim bitten more than once in a single attack still counts as a single bite.
Bites are not eligible towards the 2-bite limit if:
• The dog bite victim was a trespasser, unlawfully situated on a defendant’s property at the time of the attack
• The attack dog was a police or military dog that was working at the time of the dog bite incident
The 2-bite limit rule differs from that of the one-bite rule because they oversee different interpretations of the law. The one-bite rule adheres to strict liability by rendering a dog owner strictly liable for a dog bite, if the owner was aware of the dog’s aggressive tendencies. Demonstrating that the owner was aware or should have known about the threat posed by the dog involves uncovering prior bite history.

1.3. Attack dogs that have gravely bitten and hurt one person

Typically, a dog that is bred to fight and act as an aggressive attack dog is subject to be euthanized after a single bite, especially if this single bite cause prominent injuries. A hearing is required before this dog is subjected to euthanization.

2. What does a hearing process entail as far as euthanizing the dog?

Prior to euthanizing a dog that has a history of biting aggression, there is a hearing that must take place, assuming the dog is not rabid. During this hearing, the court must decide if the dog presents a prominent threat to public safety. The dog owner’s due process rights entitles the owner to notice of the hearing’s occurrence and court’s decision.

2.1. What does the initiation process of the hearing look like?

Following a dog bite, it is possible for anyone to petition a hearing process concerning a dog’s euthanization including:
• The dog’s victim
• An officer of the law
• An animal control officer
• A local neighbor or witness to the attack
Any of these individuals can initiate or file a complaint with a local animal shelter or animal control office to initiate a court hearing. Such a complaint would characterize the dog as an imminent and dangerous threat to the public.

2.2. Who is responsible for conducting this hearing?

The court hearing about euthanizing a dog that has bitten a human is conducted in the county in which the dog bite attack happened. The individuals conducting the hearing are appointed according to local regulations. In the case of Los Angeles Country, a Hearing Examiner presiding from the Los Angeles Animal Control sector may attend and conduct this hearing.

2.3. How will the dog owner be notified of the hearing?

Dog owners are unequivocally entitled to receive notice that a hearing is taking place. This notification process and duration is dependent on local ordinances. In the case of Los Angeles County, dog owners must receive written notice at least 10 days prior to the court hearing. This notice must article where, when and why the court hearing is being held.

2.4. What typically transpires at the hearing?

During the hearing, various evidence is presented regarding the dog’s status as a large threat and danger to public safety. The dog owner is also entitled the opportunity to present a defense for his or her pet. The dog owner is eligible to argue that the dog is not an imminent threat to the public and witnesses can be called to attest to the dog’s temperament.
Evidence suggesting that a dog is, or is not, an imminent threat to public safety can include some of the following insights:
• Prior incidents of the dog attacking, biting, or hurting another person or animal,
• The severity of the associated injuries as well as the number of victims
• The location of the dog bite incident
• Whether the dog bite was the result of purposeful provocation or teasing
• The extent of any property damage that transpired as a result of the attack
• Whether there is evidence suggesting that the dog was specifically bred for aggressive behavior, violence or attacking disposition,
• Any aggressive or unpredictable characteristics that the animal has demonstrated towards people or other animals,
• Whether it is feasible to train or retrain the dog’s violent temperament
• The owner’s discretion in keeping the dog out of trouble and aggressive behavior
It is at the discretion of animal control of the person who has filed the complaint to prove that the dog is in fact a dangerous to public safety and should be euthanized to protect society. These parties can prove this by compiling a preponderance of the evidence.

2.5. What are some possible consequences to result from a hearing?

The outcome of a court hearing essentially entails whether a dog with history of biting aggression is found to be a public threat. Some possible consequences and outcomes of a hearing may include the following scenarios:
• The court does not deem the dog a threat to the public and the dog is freely released to its owners,
• The dog is not deemed a threat, but its license is revoked because the owners demonstrated negligence and an overall lack of awareness of the dog’s aggressive nature
• The dog is not deemed a threat, but its license is suspended until the owners can properly facilitate training or take correct action to control the dog’s aggression
• The dog is deemed an imminent and dangerous threat to the public and is ultimately impounded to be euthanized.10

2.6. Is it possible to appeal the outcome of a hearing?

Dog owners are eligible and entitled to appeal the decision of a court hearing overseeing dog euthanization. The subject who hears appeal is highly dependent on local and regions ordinances. Within the scope of Los Angeles, this type of appeal goes to the Board of Commissioners for processing.
Appealing the outcome a hearing must be facilitated quickly to prevent final court action about the case. In the case of Los Angeles county, an appeal must be filled and postmarked no later than 15 days after the decision is presented or served to the dog owner.

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