Riverside, Calif. (CBS Sacramento) – Pit bulls and pit bull mixes must be sterilized under the terms of a new ordinance in Riverside County.

The Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to approve the measure after an emotional hearing.

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Owners in unincorporated parts of the county must have their pit bulls spayed or neutered in order to get a license. Violators will face a misdemeanor or a citation.

The board did allow some exemptions for some breeders, police and rescue dogs and in cases where the dog is too sick to be sterilized.

The move comes after a series of highly publicized pit bull attacks in the county, including the mauling death of a 91-year-old woman.

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“This is a life and death issue,” Councilwoman Brenda Knight told the Riverside Press Enterprise. “We have frustration and fear in the community. We need to have something done.”

Owners of pit bulls and mixes defended their dogs.

“My dog Louie and thousands of others like Louie would never harm (people),” Armenta told the Press Enterprise. “It saddens me that we want to pick on one breed.”

Other owners suggested the ordnance, which goes into effect next month, should apply to owners of all dog breeds.

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Riverside animal shelter officials say pit bulls account for 20 percent of all breeds in public shelters and 30 percent of dog euthanizations.