Culver City Star
July 13, 2006
By Anna Scott
What to do About Bad Dogs at the Park
Pets: Attack on a Culver City resident raises the question of posting a guard at the facility.
On a recent evening in the Culver City Dog Park, a physical therapist stepped into a canine brawl to protect her dog from attack by a large pit bull and came away with bite marks in her wrist so deep she had to visit the emergency room.
The victim, Culver City resident Randi Woodrow - who frequents the park with her mixed-breed, Bailey - reported the incident to the Culver City Police Department the next day. The police referred Woodrow to the City Council, who suggested she contact county authorities.
"The problem was...the [other dog owner] didn't give me her name," Woodrow said. "It's wonderful to have a dog park, but [Culver City] has no local means to monitor what goes on; we need local animal control."
Culver City's animal control services, including licensing, public safety operations and humane control of domestic and wild animals, are currently contracted through the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control, located in Carson.
"They're just too far away to provide the level of service we need in Culver City,"said Deborah Weinrauch, director of the grassroots organization Friends of Culver City Animals, which has been working to form a local animal control unit since May 2005.
"We get complaints [from residents] called into our hotline about dead wildlife that's not being picked up, injured wildlife, strays, dog attacks, residents who have lost pets," said Weinrauch. "If we have somebody close, our laws can be enforced. Right now it's practically impossible to crack down."
The need for a local authority has "absolutely" become more urgent since the opening of the dog park on the corner of Jefferson Boulevard and Duquesne Avenue in April, says Culver City Mayor Gary Silbiger.
One of only four off-leash parks on the West Side, the park attracts dozens of pet owners from both in and outside of Culver City every week.
"If there's a dog incident in our park," Silbiger said, "a local control officer could be there in five minutes. If we call the county, most of the time they don't send anybody; if they do, it could be hours. I think it's extremely important for Culver City to have its own local animal control officer."
But others say the city doesn't have the resources.
"It's very expensive to have somebody work for the city," said Councilman Alan Corlin. ''The decision to have [local] animal control at this point would mean cutting something else. Do I think the county should be providing better service? Yes, and that's where I think our attention should be."
Nonetheless, earlier this year the council assigned a sub-committee to work with Weinrauch to investigate the feasibility of creating an animal control agency in Culver City.
Over the past year, the Friends have collected more than 1,300 petition signatures from Culver City residents, produced several animal-related incident reports for the council's review and found a nearby animal welfare organization willing to donate an animal control truck.
But Corlin remains skeptical. "When they get back to me with how much it costs, then I can vote yes or no," he said.
Friends' members are working on a cost analysis and plan to consult with officials in Torrance, where a "very successful" citywide animal control unit was formed earlier this year, Weinrauch says.
The Torrance Animal Control Unit, under the jurisdiction of the city's police department, employs two officers, one supervisor and one administrator full time. Since 2005, the number of lost pets reunited with their owners in Torrance has more than doubled, according to reports.
Meanwhile in Culver City, dog owner Matthew Waldman, who brings his dog, Socrates, to the dog park's fenced-in sandlots twice a week, worries about the lack of an outside monitor in the neighborhood.
"There was one time another dog was charging [Socrates] over and over," Waldman said. "I was standing right next to the owner and I was surprised she didn't say anything. Finally, I had to stand between her dog and my dog.
"Dogs get aggressive, but it all comes down to people. Maybe it would help to have [an officer] do spot checks at peak hours; if people see a person of authority they'll act accordingly. It's human nature."