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Bark, meet bite 

Supervisor Adam Hill’s experience with a rogue Chihuahua isn’t exactly what San Luis Obispo County officials want to regulate.

Hill, who often can be seen walking his dogs in downtown SLO, said he’s always chased by a Chihuahua.

Menacing? Yes. Dangerous? No.

Still, he said, there’s “clearly a gap in our own codes.”

On March 5, county supervisors seemed unanimously in favor of a new ordinance that would impose fines on negligent owners of aggressive animals, but they decided to push back a final vote while county staffers tighten up the early language.

Current codes allow officials to penalize animal owners when their animal injures another person or animal. However, local officials have no authority to make pet owners secure potentially dangerous animals before they’ve caused injury. If passed, this ordinance would allow officials to fine people who fail to contain their animals $50 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense, and $250 for each subsequent offense.

Some members of the public worried the ordinance was too ambiguous, and that it lacked definitions for what constitutes an aggressive animal and what constitutes adequate containment.

“Sometimes the road to rather badly drafted ordinances is paved with good intentions,” said retired judge Martha Goldin.

Others thought the current language is too soft, particularly the proposed fine amount. Supervisors seemed to agree with both. On a 5-0 vote, the board asked staffers to redraft the ordinance; pass the new language by county attorneys; add language that makes property owners (in cases of rental properties) responsible, too; increase the fines to $250 for a first offense, $500 for a second, and $1,000 for a third; and to add a clause that would allow animal control officers to confine an animal in a kennel or other authorized facility for second or third offenses.

The ordinance is scheduled to come back for another public hearing at the board’s April 10 meeting.

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