Vicious and Restricted Ordinance

Chapter 7, Article VIII of the Santa Barbara County Code

Under Santa Barbara County Ordinance, a dog that inflicts injury on a human or another domestic animal or livestock or who causes a person to take defensive action to avoid harm may fall under the definition of a 'Restricted" or "Vicious" dog. 

If there is probable cause that a dog's behavior may fall under the definition of a Restricted or Vicious dog, the animal may be impounded and Animal Services will conduct an administrative hearing. 

A dog that is deemed Restricted is eligible to return home under certain conditions such as approved confinement. 

A dog that is deemed Vicious is not eligible to return home and may be ordered euthanized or deemed eligible for lifetime placement in an approved sanctuary. 

If your dog has been impounded pending a Vicious & Restricted Dog Hearing, click here for more information: Vicious and Restricted Information for Owners 

If you or your pet is the victim of a dog attack, click here for more information on the Vicious & Restricted Dog Hearing process: Vicious and Restricted Information for Victim

The majority of Vicious & Restricted cases occur when an at large dog attacks another dog that is being walked on leash. These situations can be avoided with proper dog control, training, and confinement. 

 When an animal gets loose and inflicts harm to another animal or a human, the consequences can be far reaching. The fees for the animal found guilty of such actions can reach into the thousands of dollars and the owner of the dog may also be legally responsible for the damages done by their pet.  Most of these cases are heartbreaking for all parties involved.

Responsible pet ownership is key in preventing dogs from becoming a threat to public safety.  Socialization as a young puppy to people and other animals is important and usually has a profound difference on the way an animal responds when they get loose.  Spaying and neutering your dog can also decrease their desire to roam as well as eliminate sexually motivated behavior that can lead to an attack.  Ensuring that you obey all leash laws and put safeguards in place on your property to prevent accidental escapes will also reduce the chances your dog will engage in a potentially dangerous situation. 

Most of the cases we see are a result of a lapse in judgement by the custodians of the offender.  The dogs are able to slip out of the house through an unattended door or the dogs have been known to dig out or jump fences yet no one reinforces the fence line. Human error can lead to severe consequences for beloved animals.      

A "Restricted Dog" is defined as:

 (a)Any dog which when unprovoked, engages in any behavior that requires a defensive action by a person to prevent bodily injury to any person, domestic animal or livestock, off the property of the owner or custodian of the dog; or

(b)Any dog which, when unprovoked, bites a person or otherwise engages in aggressive behavior when off the property of the owner or custodian of the dog, causing a less severe injury than as defined as "severe injury to a human" in section 7-54 ; or

(c)Any dog which, when unprovoked, has inflicted an injury less severe than a "severe injury to an animal", as defined in section 7-54 , to a domestic animal or livestock when off the property of the owner or custodian of the dog; and

(d)Any dog for which an administrative hearing has been held and the dog has been determined to need to be closely controlled by the owner or custodian and restrictions have been designated by a hearing officer with jurisdiction in the county.

A "Vicious Dog" is defined as:

(a)Any dog which, when unprovoked, in an aggressive manner, inflicts severe injury to a person, as defined in section 7-54 , or kills a person; or

(b)Any dog that kills or inflicts on another domestic animal or livestock a severe injury to an animal as defined in section 7-54 , when the killed or injured animal is properly contained on the property of its owner or custodian or is being lawfully walked on leash by its owner or custodian or is physically under the control of the owner or custodian (such as being held in the arms of the owner or custodian); or

(c)Any dog that has exhibited the behaviors defined under "restricted dog" (a), (b), or (c) and that has a documented prior history of such behaviors in animal services database or the records of another jurisdiction, which may include, but is not limited to, a prior warning following investigation of an incident, a documented bite to a human, or a determination that the dog is vicious or potentially dangerous pursuant to Chapter 9  of Division 14 of the California Food and Agricultural Code; or

(d)Any dog previously determined to be and currently designated as a restricted dog in the county, which, after its owner or custodian has been notified of this determination, continues the behavior that resulted in designating it a restricted dog, engages in other behavior described in the "restricted dog" definition in section 7-54 , or is maintained in violation of section 7-60 , an administrative decision, a court order or restrictions placed on it.


  • When off your property always ensure your dog is under the direct control of an adult and secured to a leather or nylon leash, no longer than 4' in length. Use of an expandable leash is strongly discouraged.
  • If you are unsure of your dog's behavior, do not allow him/her off leash at any time, including at approved off-leash parks and beaches.
  • To ensure your dog cannot inflict harm, have him/her wear a basket-muzzle when in public.
  • Ensure all gates are kept closed and locked. Consider installing spring-loaded hinges so gates close automatically.
  • Ensure your fence is and remains in good condition so your dog cannot escape.
  • Do not allow your dog in the garage or front yard unless s/he is on a leash.
  • Install a heavy-duty screen door on your front door to prevent accidental escape.
  • Knowing your dog may be protective of your property, be mindful of his/her behavior and take steps to protect people and animals that approach your house.  
  • Never leave the dog unattended in a vehicle or tethered to a stationary object.
  • Work on modifying your dog's behavior toward utilizing positive-reinforcement training techniques or enrolling in training classes that utilize only positive reinforcement methods.