State bill good for people and pets

By Supervisor Dave Roberts

It has long been proven that people who commit domestic violence are prone to harming their pets, too.

For that reason, the County Board of Supervisors years ago adopted an initiative to keep Animal Control Officers informed concerning households where domestic violence has taken place and there are pets present.

Now new state legislation, Assembly Bill 1511, goes one step further.

When an Animal Control Officer is sent in to deal with a dangerous pet, they will now know in advance if they are dealing with a dangerous pet owner as well.

Of course, that’s if the state bill passes. The way the bill is written, Animal Control Officers will have access to the criminal history of pet owners – before entering the premises.

Known as rap sheets, an officer can access police files to protect themselves. If a pet owner has a violent history, or owns a gun, Animal Control will be accompanied by police.

In short, AB 1511 would require the Department of Justice and local criminal justice agencies to provide a summary of state and local criminal history information to an animal control officer for the purposes of performing his or her duties. The bill would permit a local agency to charge a reasonable fee sufficient to cover the costs of providing that information.

Public protection will be enhanced. This is a good idea for community safety. In 2012, an unarmed animal control officer in Galt, California, Sacramento County, was shot and killed while trying to retrieve pets from a home whose owner was evicted the previous day.

The officer had gone to the home to rescue the dogs and cats authorities thought had been left behind. The owner had been served an eviction notice and a sheriff’s deputy had changed the locks. The man still re-entered the house. He fired a shotgun through the door, killing the officer.

This cannot happen again.

I brought forward support for this bill with Supervisor Greg Cox, which passed the County Board of Supervisors by a 5-0 vote. Our recommendation was strongly supported by our County Animal Services. The county will now work to promote the legislation in Sacramento.

Public protection is job one for elected officials. Giving Animal Control Officers the information they need to avoid a dangerous situation is not only good common sense, but it could turn out to be a life-saver.

Dave Roberts represents the Third District on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors.