Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” There is no better way to ensure the humane treatment of animals than enacting comprehensive, sensible laws to codify and enforce society’s expectations of how they will be protected.
This premise is what prompted me to move to California in 1993. Protecting animals in the Midwest was difficult due to the paucity of animal welfare laws on the books. In Kansas, I witnessed the horrific conditions in the commercial dog breeding facilities known as “puppy mills”, where dogs were kept in extremely poor conditions with scant nutrition and little to no medical care. Their sole purpose was to produce as many puppies as possible, with no regard to their genetic soundness. Other deficiencies included allowing dogs to live their lives on chains in the backyards, a cruel existence for man’s best friend who wants nothing more to be part of a family. Animal welfare laws were no more than a paragraph or two and rarely enforced. Municipal ordinances were also lacking and outdated.
In California, a much more robust set of laws exists to protect animals in a myriad of settings. In fact, the laws are so extensive that an entire 800+ page book can be purchased from the California Animal Welfare Association, which contains all laws regarding animals in California. Not all are related to animal protection, but also protecting people from dangerous animals, wildlife laws, veterinary medicine laws, and more. It is very rewarding to have a bigger toolkit to protect animals and promote kindness and compassion.
But protecting animals falls on local enforcement – the animal control and humane officers who work every day to make life better for the animals in our communities. In this regard, our local ordinances have focused effect on reflecting our expectations for animal care. In Los Angeles County, the governing ordinance regarding animals is Los Angeles County Code Title 10.
I am very proud of Title 10. In the 21 ½ years I have been with DACC, it has been amended 14 times. Each amendment improved protections for animals and people and has made Title 10 (in my opinion) the strongest local animal ordinance in the country. Many municipalities rarely update their local ordinances, and some can date back decades to their last change. Title 10 has continued to evolve and be amended as we identified areas for improvement, the need to address animal welfare issues, and the desire to protect public safety. This post begins a limited series of Title 10’s robust protections for animals and people in Los Angeles County.
In this post I will discuss the general requirements for animal care. This applies to everyone – individual animal owners as well as operators of animal facilities such as grooming salons, boarding kennels, wild animal facilities, and pet shops. These requirements are found in Los Angeles County Code Section 10.40.010. Failure to comply with any requirement is a misdemeanor. These requirements are:
A. Housing facilities for animals must be structurally sound and maintained in good repair to protect the animals from injury, contain the animals, and restrict the entrance of other animals.
B. All animals must be supplied with sufficient food and water suitable for the age, species, and nutritional requirements of the animal. Animals must have access at all times to potable water, unless otherwise directed by a veterinarian. All animal food must be properly stored to prevent contamination, infestation by vermin, and exposure to the elements.
C. Animals must be groomed and kept in a manner that is not injurious to their health. All animal buildings or enclosures must be maintained in a clean and sanitary condition to control odors and prevent the spread of disease.
D. All animals must be maintained in a manner to eliminate excessive and nighttime noise.
E. No animals may be without attention for more than 12 consecutive hours; whenever an animal is left unattended at a commercial animal facility, the telephone number of the Department, or the name, address, and telephone number of the responsible person, must be posted in a conspicuous place at the front of the property. Animal facilities that breed dogs must comply with the applicable minimum staffing requirements set forth in Section 10.40.200.
F. Animals may not be neglected, teased, abused, mistreated, annoyed, tormented, or in any manner made to suffer.
G. No condition may be maintained or permitted that is or could be injurious to the animals.
H. Tethering of animals is prohibited except as permitted under California Health and Safety Code section 122335.
I. Animal buildings and enclosures must be constructed and maintained to prevent escape of animals. All reasonable precautions must be taken to protect the animals and the public.
J. An animal facility must isolate sick animals so as to not endanger the health of other animals.
K. A building or enclosure for animals must be kept in a sanitary condition and in good repair, and must be constructed of material easily cleaned. The building must be properly ventilated to prevent drafts and to remove odors. Heating and cooling must be provided to meet the physical need of the animals, with sufficient light to allow observation of the animals and proper sanitation. An animal facility must be equipped with working smoke alarms and have means of fire suppression, such as a sprinkler system in each room where animals are kept, or functioning fire extinguishers.
L. An animal must be taken to a veterinarian for examination or treatment if the Director orders the owner or custodian to do so.
M. All animal enclosures, including, but not limited to, rooms, cages, and kennel runs, must be of sufficient size to provide adequate and proper accommodations for the animals housed there. An enclosure with a wire bottom may be used temporarily for dogs, and only if it complies with Health and Safety Code sections 122065 and 122065.5. If enclosures, such as crates and other mobile enclosures, are stacked upon one another, or on a surface other than the floor, the crates/enclosures must be securely fastened and designed and arranged so that: there is no danger of an enclosure falling; the animals do not have direct access to one another; and waste from one enclosure cannot be transmitted to another enclosure. Food and water containers must be secured to prevent spillage. Crates may be stacked no more than two crates high.
N. A violation of an ordinance must be corrected within the time specified by the Director.
O. Proper shelter and protection from the weather must be provided at all times.
P. An animal must not be given any alcoholic beverage, unless prescribed by a veterinarian.
Q. Animals that are natural enemies, temperamentally unsuited or otherwise incompatible, must not be housed together, or so near each other as to cause injury, fear, or torment. Two or more animals can be housed together if they do not harm each other.
R. Any tack, equipment, device, substance, or material that is, or could be, injurious or cause unnecessary cruelty to any animal may not be used.
S. Working animals must be given adequate rest periods. Confined or restrained animals must be given appropriate exercise.
T. An animal that is weak, exhausted, sick, injured, lame, or otherwise unfit may not be worked or used.
U. An animal that the Department has suspended from use may not be worked or used until released by the Department.
V. Animals bearing evidence of malnutrition, ill health, unhealed injury, or having been kept in an unsanitary condition may not be displayed.
W. An animal whose appearance is or may be offensive or contrary to public decency may not be displayed.
X. No animal may be allowed to constitute or cause a hazard, or be a menace to the health, peace, or safety of the community.
Y. A person may not violate any condition imposed by the Director on any license issued by the Department.
Los Angeles County Code Section 10.40.010 provides comprehensive requirements to ensure the humane treatment of animals and proper general management of animal facilities. In addition, further requirements regarding the operation of commercial animal breeding facilities go farther to protect animals housed in these situations. In my next blog I will tell you how Los Angeles County goes above and beyond in protecting these animals. Stay tuned!
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