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Statement on Vicious Animals Process and 2017 Dog Attack

The City of Visalia is exceedingly conscientious about resolving issues regarding the safety and protection of the public and their pets, as well as the rights of animal owners whose dogs cause harm to others.

In January 31, 2017, a City of Visalia Animal Control officer impounded two dogs under the City’s Dangerous or Vicious Animals ordinance after they escaped a Visalia woman's backyard and attacked a small dog and injured the victim’s owner in the process.

Over the next 16-months the owner of the two dogs engaged in extensive litigation in both the state and federal courts, and rejected numerous opportunities to resolve this dispute informally. After the owner hired four attorneys (one in Visalia, one in Hanford and two from Los Angeles), a federal judge validated the process the City followed, which was also validated by the superior court judge. This January 31, 2017 incident demonstrates the process and procedures the City has in place to protect people and their pets from dogs that are determined to be vicious.  

Pursuant to the ordinance, the owner of the attacking dogs requested an appeal hearing for the vicious determination.  As a result of the evidence presented, the hearing officer deemed the primary aggressor in the incident, a male, brindle Pit Bull named Armani, to be vicious and the other dog was placed on probation. 

Over the course of 2016, the attacking dog’s owner was issued five different citations, for a total of eight violations, public nuisance, failure to license, animal care and barking, all prior to the attack that occurred in January 2017.

“The dog that was deemed to be vicious was in the care of Visalia Animal Services since the incident, while the owner sought appeals through multiple state and federal court hearings,” stated Ivy Ruiz, Visalia Animal Services Supervisor. “Despite the fact that a legal stay was never issued, the City agreed to keep the animal in its care until the resolution of all legal options for the owner.”

As a courtesy, this morning, Tuesday, June 12th, the owner was provided a one-hour visitation with Armani. Once completed, the City carried out the Vicious Animals ordinance process and the dog was humanely euthanized in accordance with Visalia Animal Services protocols.

For the purpose of the City ordinance, vicious is defined as “any animal, wild or domesticated, that attacks or bites any person or animal.” From July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017, Visalia Animal Services had 7,103 total calls for service. Of those calls, 505 were for vicious animals.

“The safety of the citizens of Visalia is Visalia Animal Services primary concern, which is why the City has both a requirement that pet owners restrain their animals and a Dangerous or Vicious Animals ordinance,” added Ruiz.

In an effort to avoid vicious animal encounters, either provoked or unprovoked and pursuant to Chapter 6.08.020 of the Visalia Municipal Code, it is the responsibility of dog owners to restrain their dogs at all times.

“Unrestrained dog attacks are occurring far too often and pose a real threat to citizens,” concluded Ruiz. “It is imperative that dog owners understand the severity and extreme consequence that can come with vicious attacks.”

Unfortunately, many citizens are under the misconception that it is lawful to allow a dog to be unrestrained if it’s on the owner’s property. That is not the case.

For the purpose of the ordinance, restraint is defined as “a leash not in excess of eight feet, a tethered lead, or a fenced enclosure which keeps the animal under the control of a responsible person or within the real property limits of its owner.” It is important for pet owners to know they are responsible for the harm their pets cause and take the appropriate steps to protect other pets and humans.

Visalia Animal Services has a strict adherence to our restraint and vicious ordinances. Accordingly, we ask all citizens, any time you see an unrestrained animal, please call and report the matter to Visalia Animal Control at 559-713-4957.

Public Documents

Order Granting Defendent's Motion for Judgement on the Pleadings - 6.8.18

Tulare County Superior Court Final Ruling - 9.28.17

Decision Following Reconsideration of Vicious Animal Hearing Decision - 7.3.17

Stokes Hearing Report - 2.24.17

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