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Politics

Deaf Woman's Service Dog Attacked by Pit Bulls in L.A.

Deaf Woman's Service Dog Attacked by Pit Pulls in West Los Angeles Shopping Mall

Councilman says there has been an increase in dog-attack reports but he doesn’t know what the City can do.  

On Memorial Day, May 31, 2010, around 4 p.m., Linda K.-- who has been deaf since birth -- and her little black-and-white Cardigan Corgi hearing service dog, Samantha, walked out of a major market in a popular West Los Angeles shopping center and, within minutes, Samantha was attacked by two large Pit Bulls.

The white Pit Bull grabbed Samantha’s neck as she screamed and went into shock. The black Pit Bull lunged at her menacingly. Both dogs had collars and were dragging leashes. Linda struggled to get the Pit Bull to release Samantha by hitting it and pulling on the collar, and she was bitten slightly on her hand. She thought she was screaming for help, but Linda cannot make audible sounds, so it was only Samantha’s cries that brought strangers and the security guard to help.

As Linda recalls in the chaos, five men ran over, grabbed the two dogs’ leashes and pulled them away from Samantha. The Pit Bulls’ owner finally got control and ran from the parking lot with the dogs. The other men also left quickly. The Corgi, still wearing her bright orange “Service Dog—I’m Working” jacket, lay on the ground, bleeding from her wounds and shivering.

A security guard and several shoppers indicated to the frantic and terrified Linda that 911 had been called. She cradled her injured Samantha and waited two hours for 911 response. But no one from any City services arrived. 

Finally someone helped her get home, and later Samantha was treated at a local veterinary clinic.  The bites were, fortunately, not serious and Samantha survived without permanent injury. Linda, who is on a very limited income, paid the veterinary bill. 

Two nights later, on June 2, 2010, Linda came to a community meeting at a West Los Angeles synagogue, where Councilman Paul Koretz (in whose district she lives and where the attack occurred) was speaking. Through sign-language interpreters, she told her story during “public comment” and asked for help in locating the dog owner and being reimbursed for the veterinary expenses from the attack. 

Councilman Koretz responded publicly that there have been increased reports of dog attacks but he did not know what the City could do about it. No assistance was offered to Linda from his office, and his deputy did not follow up on a series of later e-mails regarding the incident.

Ironically, on June 4, 2010, Councilman Koretz joined Councilman Bill Rosendahl in introducing a motion to increase the number of dogs each Los Angeles resident can own from three to five dogs (plus five cats). Why? Especially if — as Councilman Koretz announced -- dog-attack reports are on the rise; the City doesn’t know what to do about it; and there seems to be little help for victims?

Wouldn’t  it make more sense to introduce a motion to study what can be done to protect people and animals before potentially adding to the problem and possibly to the danger?    http://www.opposingviews.com/i/bad-move-l-a-s-brenda-barnette-looks-to-raise-dog-cat-limits

An animal advocate in the audience followed Linda outside to exchange e-mail addresses and help her make contact with City departments to get help. Upon notification of the incident, West Los Angeles Animal Services officers soon identified the Pit Bulls because the owner frequently loitered in the shopping center. Both dogs were impounded. Although the dog owner claimed to be homeless, his dogs are licensed to a nearby address, according to LAAS.

The Pit Bulls’ owner admitted the attack and agreed in writing (according to a paper Linda was shown) to pay for Samantha’s veterinary expenses. She provided a copy of the invoice, as requested.

Then the system again came to a screeching halt for Linda. When she e-mailed to ask about progress on her case, Animal Services informed her that the dogs had been released to the owner because their shots were current, they were licensed, and there were no prior reports of aggressive behavior. She was advised that Animal Services is not allowed to collect reimbursement for the victim, but her case would be scheduled for a City Attorney hearing very soon, at which time her concerns would be addressed.

Linda wrote to the assigned Deputy City Attorney to inquire about what would happen next. Would the man be able to come back to the shopping center with his dogs? How could she and Samantha be safe? Would charges be filed against him? How and when would the veterinary bills be reimbursed?

The Deputy City Attorney responded by e-mail that the incident was only an infraction because it was “…accidental and not intentional,” so there wouldn’t be any restitution.  He stated he did not believe that pursuing a fine was appropriate because the man was “homeless and destitute.”  Linda reminded him that the man had signed an agreement and had paid all fees at the animal shelter to redeem his dogs. 

On July 1, 2010, she was advised that an office hearing would be scheduled, and the Deputy City Attorney wrote, “We are definitely going to encourage him to pay but because the law is so weak and doesn't actually give us any authority to force him to pay restitution...we're at the mercy of him wanting to pay you.” 

Linda is still waiting to be notified of whether the hearing was held and the outcome. 

THERE OUGHTA BE A LAW!  There is!

Because of the alarming increase in attacks on Guide and Service Dogs, in 1995, California passed Penal Code Sec. 600.2 (and 600.5)

 

California Penal Code Section 600.2 (pertinent part)

    (a) It is a crime for any person to permit any dog which is owned, harbored, or controlled by him or her to cause injury to or the death of any guide, signal, or service dog, as defined by Section 54.1 of the Civil Code, while the guide, signal, or service dog is in discharge of its duties.

   (b) A violation of this section is an infraction punishable by a fine not to exceed two hundred fifty dollars ($250) if the injury or death to any guide, signal, or service dog is caused by the person's failure to exercise ordinary care in the control of his or her dog. http://www.guidedogs.com/site/PageServer?pagename=resources_access_codes

Linda believes that, since the owner brought two Pit Bulls to a busy mall and did not maintain a tight hold on their leashes, the owner failed “…to exercise ordinary care in the control of his…dog (s).” 

She feels he should have been cited for an infraction and ordered to appear in court so that she would have an opportunity for restitution for her veterinary bill and also so that there would be a court  record of the incident in the event this dog owner allows or causes his Pit Bulls to attack again.

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Could the City have done more to help Linda and Samantha in this case?  Linda needs Samantha to “hear” for her and she is now afraid to take her to the market which is close to her home. 

Is it fair that the dog owner received no penalty and no arrest record, while Linda lives in fear of another attack?

If the dog limit in Los Angeles is raised to five per resident, will “homeless” people be allowed to have up to five dogs and no liability for injury or damage to a human or animal? 

CAN THIS HAVE A HAPPIER ENDING?

Fortunately for Linda, Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich heard about her story and has agreed to personally look at this case to determine if anything more can be done to help her. 

Also, new CA State Assemblyman Mike Gatto wants to see if the current state law can be amended to enable local or state agencies to collect out-of-pocket expenses for veterinary or other costs incurred as the result of an attack on a guide, signal or service dog--in those cases where the owner of the attacking dog(s) voluntarily agrees to make reimbursement prior to a hearing.

HOW COMMON ARE ATTACKS ON GUIDE/SERVICE DOGS?   

No information was found on exactly how many guide or service dogs are attacked in America.  However, the UK keeps records on attacks on guide dogs. 

A Daily Mail article on June 18, 2010, entitled, “Three guide dogs attacked every month on British streets... mostly by bull terriers,” reports:

“More than 60 per cent of the attackers were off the lead at the time and, excluding cross breeds, almost half were bull breeds - bulldogs, mastiffs, bull terriers, pit bull types and Staffordshire bull terriers.

“Rachel Moxon, of the Guide Dogs Breeding Centre at Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, and colleagues at the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association reviewed a hundred such incidents between November 2006 and April 2009 and found almost two thirds - 61 per cent - of the canine victims were in harness and working with their owner or trainer at the time.

 “Forty-one guide dogs needed veterinary care after the attack. And in one in five cases, either the handler or a member of the public sustained injuries including scratching, bruising, and bites to the hands, ankle or head.

 “Diane Roberts, of the RSPCA, said: 'These figures bring into stark reality the vulnerability of these guide dogs. It is heartbreaking. Other dogs may be able to run away in some instances, but these breeds are trained to look after and protect their owner. They have such a special bond. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1287570/Three-guide-dogs-attacked-month-streets-Britain.html#ixzz14KUild9X

 Jeremy Laurance, Health Editor for the UK’s The Independent, on 6/18/10, writes in a report entitled, “Alarm at attacks on guide dogs”: 

 “The emotional impact of the attacks on both the dogs and their owners was significant. Many of the owners were shocked and distressed and unable to see how badly their dog was injured or whether it needed the attention of a vet. In only six cases did the owner receive an apology and in eight cases the owner of the aggressor dog left the scene without saying anything.” http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/pets/news/alarm-at-attacks-on-guide-dogs-2003687.html

TO LEARN MORE:

About the world of the deaf and speech-impaired, search for a “Deaf Awareness Festival” in your area.  In Los Angeles, Councilman Tony Cardenas hosts the DEAFestival each year and information is available at:   http://www.alldeaf.com/deaf-events-meets/20448-deafestival-2005-los-angeles-9-24-free-admission.html

 

Also see: Guide Dogs Attack Fact Sheet (Guide Dogs for the Blind) http://www.guidedogs.com/site/PageServer?pagename=resources_pets_attackfacts