Placer County supes tighten leash rules with Lucky’s Law

Death of Auburn woman’s poodle in pitbull attack leads to new regulations
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Delta Wilson-Ricky walked out of the Placer County Board of Supervisors chambers tearful but triumphant Tuesday, with tougher leash laws she has championed since the death of her poodle Lucky winning strong support. Wilson-Ricky, still emotionally affected by the death of her pet in a pitbull attack nearly three months ago, said that she was “awestruck” by the speed in which the county moved to put teeth in regulations that have allowed dogs at large off the premises of their owners if under “voice control.” The new rules require dogs to be “under restraint by lead, leash or adequate enclosure.” Exceptions include canines assisting peace officers engaged in law-enforcement duties, assisting a person involved in hunting activities, or herding livestock. “It’s Lucky’s Law, really,” Wilson-Ricky said, brushing away tears. “That’s what I would call it.” Lucky, an adopted dog that had been previously abused, died June 5 after an unleashed pit bull bounded from North Park, near Dry Creek Road. Wilson-Ricky picked her dog up but the pitbull jumped up, sunk its teeth into Lucky and knocked the 76-year-old woman over. Lucky died and a grieving Wilson-Ricky soon after approached the Board of Supervisors with a heartfelt request to “put some teeth” in at-large dog regulations. The county Animal Services Division had already embarked on revisions to the County Code chapter on animals and incorporated suggestions Wilson-Ricky made and the board indicated it would likely support. At Tuesday’s meeting, supervisors voted 5-0 to a series of amendments to the County Code that included one requiring dogs to be leashed when they are off an owner’s property. “I am awestruck with the speed in which you brought this forth,” Wilson-Ricky told the board. “I want to express my gratitude.” Dr. Mark Starr, director of animal services, said that changes to the code would take effect after the Board of Supervisors holds a second vote on what would be a consent item at its next meeting. County Code revisions require a second reading. The code revisions also include a provision that gives the county more leeway to deal with potentially dangerous or vicious dogs. Instead of relying on state law, which mandates a potentially dangerous-dog declaration after two off-premises attacks on other animals in 36 months, a determination can now be made after an initial offense. The declaration allows the county to set out stricter provisions for the owner to control a potentially vicious dog – and another attack. The definition of a potentially dangerous dog includes any canine, when unprovoked, that kills, seriously bites or injures another animal off the property of the dog’s owner. Wilson-Ricky said she has again just started to walk in her neighborhood after two months of fearfulness. Reaction to the changes was generally receptive. Placer County cities and towns have their own sets of regulations and Tuesday’s approval applies to unincorporated areas. Auburn’s Billy Valdez said he uses a leash with his dog. “He looks like a pitbull and when he comes up to people he may appear to want to fight but he just wants to play,” Valdez said. “I don’t think voice command is enough.” Kimberly Ferrier of Grass Valley was visiting Auburn on Tuesday and said she has mixed feelings because she lets her dog off leash on occasion. “It’s not the dog who should be penalized,” Ferrier said. “It’s the owners. Without the leash, it can create an opportunity for problems.” Brian Lindblom of Martinez stopped at Auburn’s Ashley Dog Park for a travel break Tuesday and said leash laws are necessary. “I don’t care where it is – the city or the county,” Lindblom said. “You’ve got to have the dog under control with a leash.”