Pit bull owner may not face charges

The Gilroy Police Department may not arrest the man who fled the scene after his pit bull attacked a dachshund in the First Street Starbucks parking lot on Thursday morning, causing the small dog to be euthanized, and causing severe non-life threatening injuries to its owner.

“Right now, we are examining whether or not any crimes were committed,” said Police Sgt. Chad Gallacinao. “It might be more of a civil issue between the victim and the pit bull’s owner, or an issue of an animal control violation.”

But as far as state law goes, Gallacinao said that it’s not clear if the pit bull’s owner did anything to warrant an arrest.

According to the California Penal Code, if a dog bites a person causing substantial physical injury, and its owner reasonably knew about the vicious nature of the dog, that owner is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine up to $1,000.   

Whether his owner is arrested or not, because the dog is considered to be a “level three” dangerous dog, the most vicious type of dog outlined in Gilroy’s municipal code, police plan to euthanize the pit bull by the end of next week, Gallacinao said.

Once the owner is contacted, he will be held responsible for the cost of the euthanasia as well as the lodging and administrative costs of keeping the animal in custody for the mandatory 10-day holding period before police are allowed to euthanize the animal, according to city code.

The cost of lodging is $100 per day, Gallacinao said, so the pit bull’s owner will face $1,000 in fees, plus the cost of the euthanasia, which costs about $80 for large breed dogs, as well as any other administrative fees incurred while the dog is impounded.

Multiple police cars and medics arrived on the scene at 7:30 a.m. Thursday, and rushed the female owner to a local hospital, according to Police Sgt. Chad Gallacinao. The woman, devastated by seeing her dog attacked, reached out to stop the pit bull, only to have her arm attacked.

Because of the severity of the dachshund’s injuries, the dog’s owner made the choice to put it down later Thursday morning, Gallacinao said.

When police arrived on the scene, the pit bull was not on a leash and the owner was nowhere to be found. It is not clear if the pit bull was on a leash when it attacked the dachshund.

The scene of the bloody attack at the Starbucks parking lot ignited an incensed debate among the readers about whether pit bulls should be regulated in Gilroy.

People came out strongly on both sides, some in vehement support of a pit bull ban while some came to the breed’s defense, accusing people of blaming an entire breed for problems that reflect more on the owner’s irresponsibility than the aggressiveness of the breed.

But most agreed on one thing: This particular pit bull’s owner should be caught and held responsible for his actions.

Police have identified a potential owner, but have not located him or made contact because they are waiting to see what, if any, criminal charges the owner is guilty of.

The pit bull was current on all of its shots, including rabies, and was micro-chipped, which led to an easy whereabouts of its previous owner on Thursday.

Maria Cabatingan, animal control officer who is investigating the incident, did not return phone calls on Monday.

The pit bull remains at the outdoor kennel at the GPD, where it has not displayed signs of aggression, Gallacinao said.

In light of these “horrible attacks,” Mayor Al Pinheiro said he is open to re-evaluating the current city ordinance regarding dangerous dogs. In 2010, City Council came up with an ordinance that defined three levels of dangerous dogs and corresponding regulations for each in response to several aggressive dog attacks.

For example, a level one dangerous dog is a dog who displays aggressive behavior, and is subject to restrictions such as only being allowed outside its owner’s property when wearing a muzzle. A level two dog is a dog that bites a person or animal, and is subject to more regulations than a level one dog, such as not being allowed unattended in a vehicle. A level three dog is a dog who bites a person or animal causing serious injury or death, and that type of dog is to be euthanized under any circumstances.

“At that time we did what we thought was the right thing to do, but maybe it’s time for us to have another look,” Pinheiro said.


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