When a dangerous dog terrorizes a neighborhood, it may be possible to invoke the public nuisance laws. Consider the situation that arises when a neighbor’s dogs manage to get loose day after day, chasing children and preventing them from walking down the street. Those dogs might well qualify as a public nuisance under state statutes or local laws. For an example of a state law, see California Penal Code sections 370 to 373a:
370. Anything which is injurious to health, or is indecent, or offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property by an entire community or neighborhood, or by any considerable number of persons, or unlawfully obstructs the free passage or use, in the customary manner, of any navigable lake, or river, bay, stream, canal, or basin, or any public park, square, street, or highway, is a public nuisance.
371. An act which affects an entire community or neighborhood, or any considerable number of persons, as specified in the last section, is not less a nuisance because the extent of the annoyance or damage inflicted upon individuals is unequal.
372. Every person who maintains or commits any public nuisance, the punishment for which is not otherwise prescribed, or who willfully omits to perform any legal duty relating to the removal of a public nuisance, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
373a. Every person who maintains, permits, or allows a public nuisance to exist upon his or her property or premises, and every person occupying or leasing the property or premises of another who maintains, permits or allows a public nuisance to exist thereon, after reasonable notice in writing from a health officer or district attorney or city attorney or prosecuting attorney to remove, discontinue or abate the same has been served upon such person, is guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be punished accordingly; and the existence of such nuisance for each and every day after the service of such notice shall be deemed a separate and distinct offense, and it is hereby made the duty of the district attorney, or the city attorney of any city the charter of which imposes the duty upon the city attorney to prosecute state misdemeanors, to prosecute all persons guilty of violating this section by continuous prosecutions until the nuisance is abated and removed.
For an example of a county ordinance, see Los Angeles County Code of Ordinances, section 10-40-065:
10.40.065 Public nuisance. A. Any animal (or animals) which molests passersby or passing vehicles, attacks other animals, trespasses on school grounds, is repeatedly at large, damages and or trespasses on private or public property, barks, whines or howls in a continuous or untimely fashion, shall be considered a public nuisance.
B. Every person who maintains, permits or allows a public nuisance to exist upon his or her property or premises, and every person occupying or leasing the property or premises of another and who maintains, permits or allows a public nuisance as described above to exist thereon, after reasonable notice in writing from the department of animal care and control has been served upon such person to cease such nuisance, is guilty of a misdemeanor. The existence of such nuisance for each and every day after the service of such notice shall be deemed a separate and distinct offense. (Ord. 2000-0075 § 54, 2000: Ord. 85-0204 § 24, 1985.)