Animal Control

(and private animal control)

Animal control officers are also known as “animal wardens,” and sometimes are regular police officers.

Many cities have animal control departments that are responsible for many different kinds of animals, and many different types of animal problems. These problems range from animal abuse to the protection of wildlife.

Animal control officers usually have a tough job and are not appreciated for the work they do. This is a shame. If there were more of them, many dog attacks and other animal problems would not happen.

Nevertheless, there are two problems that plague animal control departments. The first is the contradictory nature of the department, charged with protecting animals from people and, at the same time, people from animals. All too often, this leads to inconsistent behavior like favoring dogs over people. There are departments that actually collude with “humaniacs” to place dangerous dogs with unsuspecting families, because of the well-meaning but misguided belief that love cures viciousness. It takes a lot more than love to rehabilitate a dangerous dog.

The other problem is lack of resources and thus lack of ability to actually prevent dog bites. Cities with understaffed animal control departments must expect more serious incidents and a greater number of incidents involving dangerous dogs hurting people.

If a city or county has proper laws in place, the animal control department can at least attempt to deal with dangerous dogs, but there are procedures that must be followed to ensure fair treatment of dog owners. (See Model Dog Bite Laws.)

The animal control department usually is required to conduct a hearing to determine whether an attacking dog is to be considered a dangerous dog or a vicious dog. The difference between dangerous and vicious may mean the difference between life and death for that dog, because vicious dogs often can be euthanized.

If you receive a subpoena from an animal control officer, you must attend the hearing. The subpoenas must be respected, just like any other subpoena from a court. Animal control hearings may have a bearing on your case, and may provide you with import information to give to your attorney.

Kenneth Phillips usually does not attend animal control hearings. His job is to make sure that the victim is compensated fairly, so he usually will not devote attention to the disposition of the attacking dog. However, under special circumstances he will do so. In serious cases, it is his opinion that the victim must be represented at the animal control hearing. For more information, see Dog bite victims need an attorney for “dog court”.

A “private animal control proceeding” is a special legal proceeding against a dog, initiated by a non-governmental party, under the authority of a statute permitting the same. In California, Civil Code section 3342.5 authorizes any person to commence a civil proceeding in the Superior Court for the purpose of obtaining court orders pertaining to the euthanasia or conditions of confinement of a dog which has bitten a human being at least two times. The term “private animal control proceeding” was coined by Attorney Kenneth Phillips in a 2006 feature article for Trial (ATLA Journal). (Phillips, Kenneth, “Put Some Teeth In Your Dog Bite Claim,” February 2006, pp. 62-67).

See the official page of the animal control shelters in Los Angeles