ANIMAL WATCH - On August 29, an off-leash, white Pit Bull, with black spots and weighing about 60 pounds, viciously attacked two men in Woodland Hills, with his owner standing nearby, KABC7 News reported.
The female owner had taken off the dog’s leash and collar in clear violation of L.A.’s leash law and park regulations and then quickly put them back on the dog and fled the scene, leaving the two bloody victims.
The second victim was a stranger who was nearby and rushed to help the first victim fight off the dog after hearing his screams, and he was injured as the dog tried to go for the victim’s throat, according to KABC7.
A photo showed puncture wounds where the dog’s teeth had pierced the skin on one of the victim’s upper chest—near his neck and face.
“He was trying to get my neck ... this dog is going to kill me!’” Emeterio Marroquin told the KABC reporter. “I tried to grab his teeth and tried to choke him, because he was trying to get my neck ….”
“Both men were taken to the hospital with dozens of bite wounds,” according to the report.
The owner grabbed the dog and put it in her car and drove away before police arrived. However, cell phone video was taken, and the victim said it is hoped it will help identify her.
When an attack occurs by a dog where current vaccination cannot be confirmed, the victim may have to undergo Rabies Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) treatment, with the first shot administered within 24 hours. For this reason alone, LAAS should have made prompt contact with the victim.
There was no mention of response by Los Angeles Animal Services—a once-proud animal-law enforcement agency, now fading into irrelevance other than to relinquish an unwanted pet, or adopt a “free” animal, or pick up a 1.5-gallon container of food, called a “serving” at a weekend event. (But with a proposed budget of $42,076,166, provided by taxpayers.)
Considering this incident, and the following reports of serious attacks and cruelty, to which Animal Services Departments in L.A. and Sonoma County were not responsive—other than to shelter a dog, maybe it is time for California to turn animal-law enforcement over to police and sheriff’s departments and just let Animal Services run the shelters.
Law-enforcement agencies have officers available 24-hours a day for emergency and cruelty calls—and, in most recent reports that made the media, they seem to be doing most of the initial response and investigation on animal attacks or cruelty calls.
Although LA Animal Services has a night officer at each shelter, a report of a French Bulldog being beaten on an outdoor veranda received no response for three months, until a second incident occurred, and a witness was shot.
And, Sonoma Animal Services states that it is not open after 5 p.m., so the option is to contact the local sheriff or police department in the area where assistance is needed and have them call the Animal Services on-call officer.
Police and Sheriff’s Departments have officers on duty 24/7, so why not cut out the middleman and move some of the budgeting to hire more night officers that could respond to serious animal calls about injuries, attacks or cruelty, enforce laws and handle emergencies?
DOES SONOMA COUNTY AC WANT REPORTS OF ANIMAL CRUELTY?
Sonoma County Animal Health Department and the message on its website for reporting animal cruelty is not only vague but appears to discourage reports with the following advisory.
In order for Sonoma County Animal Services to contact a pet owner regarding a complaint, we must have your name and contact information. Without it, the complaint may go unaddressed. Visit our FORMS section for records requests and Sworn Statements.
Those wishing to “report an issue” are then advised: “Please Note: The County of Sonoma is subject to the California Public Records Act and cannot guarantee the confidentiality of emailed dialogue.”
This sounds like a way of discouraging reports, because what it does not mention is that, under the CA Public Records Act, reporting party information is exempt from disclosure.
THESE APPEAR TO BE TWO OF THE COMPLAINTS THEY MISSED
Brian Whipple, Operations Manager at Sonoma Animal Services
On September 5, the Press Democrat published a heart-wrenching editorial, “Get it together, Sonoma County Animal Services,” which reviews two tragic, and inhumane situations in Sonoma, CA, where it alleges that numerous reports to Sonoma Animal Services were ignored and resulted in two avoidable tragedies.
It describes how a paint horse slowly starved to the point he could no longer fight back or avoid a German Shepherd that was kept in the same area on a property. The horse was viciously killed by the dog, after it had been harassed and attacked when it attempted to graze in an area visible to the public.
Witnesses repeatedly contacted Sonoma County Animal Services, who seemingly failed to take the complaints seriously. Finally, on July 10, the horse could fight no more, the article states. The dog savagely attacked the horse like a wild predator. A veterinarian mercifully euthanized the horse that day.
In the testimony before the Board of Supervisors, one speaker was a former police officer and a horse rescuer who is obviously very knowledgeable about horses but also about law enforcement. She emphasized that Animal Services is obligated—just like the police department to respond to calls that involve the commission of a crime—and animal cruelty is a crime.
“Reportedly, at least 15 reports were made about the dog, sparking multiple visits by officials. But despite these warnings, no one had control over the vicious animal, and the horse’s fate was sealed by inaction” it states.
But it seems the Sonoma Tribune has heard enough excuses and called them out by republishing the editorial on September 7. (“Get it together, Sonoma County Animal Services.”)
It starts: “Following two violent and heartbreaking incidents this summer, both of which seemed preventable, the county must investigate its Animal Services department.”
On September 7, 2023, KSRO News also reported, Future of Two “Vicious” Dogs in Sonoma Valley Uncertain.
“Sonoma County Animal Services are trying to figure out what to do with two pit bulls with a history of violent encounters,” states the report by KSRO.
At least 11 complaints about dangerous behavior have been filed about the dogs, Mac and Maggie, and their owners, since 2018.
However, in June the Pit Bulls attacked a Sonoma resident who lives on Sierra Drive, which resulted in injuries requiring 30 stitches and six hours of surgery. “He thought he was going to die from the attack,” the unnamed victim told officials at Sonoma County Animal Services.
The victim reportedly told Sonoma Animal Services officials, “He thought he was going to die from the attack.”
Records show that animal services did not take action on any of the previous reports until this past February, when it was agreed the dogs would be labeled “potentially dangerous.”
However, the latest attack in June has caused the designation to change to “vicious,” and a trial is set for September 20, 2023.
NATIONAL ORGANIZATION ENDORSEMENT DOESN’T COUNT
California animal shelters are essentially being run by the national organizations that are making donations to services where they will benefit by increasing their donor-base.
A merger of animal-control functions into traditional law-enforcement agencies could be even more effective now in an era where many, if not most, police personnel have pets and consider them family members.
It is time for a change for the animals and those who truly care about them and the humans who count on the services and humaneness they both deserve.
(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a former Los Angeles City employee, an animal activist and a contributor to CityWatch.)