Stu: Innocent LA Dog Could be Euthanized

By isak, June 24, 2009

Stu 9/15/2005 - Appeals Court clears the way for Stu to be killed, despite the fact that nationwide dangerous dog laws exempt dogs who are injured and in pain at the time of a bite.I was completely and excitedly expecting to announce the news that Stu would be going home today (see previous post). But that seems to not be the case.

The ridiculousness of the charges, his “theft” from a locked kennel on his own property, lack of paperwork regarding how he arrived at the pound, a positive assessment from an animal behaviorist, support from the Chairman of the Grand Rapids Community Bite Prevention Committee and members of the community and even city commissioners. In this case and similar ones playing out across this continent, there seems to be this magic line in the sand which will not move even though the greatest majority wants that move. Why is this? Do the authorities supporting the line really have the right to deny the request of the majority? Their response seems unreasonable.

We need to find this line in the sand and amend it. It is not reasonable, logical or humane.

Read the story from the LA Pet Rescue Examiner »

Appeals Court rules against Stu – could allow Animal Services to kill senior dog
by Kate Woodviolet
June 23, 9:49 PM

Despite a case filled with discrepancies, missing reports, and irregular behavior on the part of L.A. Animal Services and City personnel, the California Court of Appeals today ruled that the City’s sentence of death against Stu, a ten year-old dog with a record of one biting incident four years ago, when Stu had himself just been injured, could stand. This clears the way for L.A. Animal Services to euthanize a dog who many, including Animal Services Commissioners, feel was denied his legal due process, and who most agree presents no danger to the public.

This despite assurances from Deputy City Attorney Dov Lesel at this Monday’s meeting of the Board of Animal Services Commissioners that it was unnecessary for the Board to take any action to save Stu, as a ruling by the Appeals Court could be weeks in coming.

Yesterday’s meeting also featured an impassioned critique of the Department’s actions by Commissioner Archie Quincey. “I’ve been over this case backwards and forwards,” he said, enumerating the discrepancies in the Department’s case against Stu, beginning with how Stu initially came to be in Animal Services custody in 2005. Stu’s owner Jeff de la Rosa kept the dog in a locked kennel and found, on the day he discovered Stu was missing, that his gate had been tampered with. The dog was allegedly found by an unidentified private citizen and brought into a City shelter, but Quincey questioned the circumstances of the dog’s appearance in City custody, “I don’t see a report. Who picked up the dog? That’s a big discrepancy.”

Quincey, who brings thirty years of experience in L.A. County animal control to his role as Commissioner, also questioned the process by which Stu was condemned, despite a hearing in which the Hearing Examiner did not find Stu to be dangerous. Contrary to L.A. Animal Services policy and L.A.’s municipal code, a Department captain unrelated to the case, a Captain Helen Brakemeier, intervened, sending a memo to former Animal Services General Manager Guerdon Stuckey saying she believed Stu to be a “dangerous dog,” a designation that carries with it a sentence of death. De la Rosa says he was unaware of Brakemeier’s role in condemning Stu until after the dog had been sentenced to die by Stuckey, who was fired by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa days later.

Quincey questioned the process by which Brakemeier arrived at her opinion. “”She came to her conclusion without an investigation. If there was an investigation, where is the report?” He further pointed out, “There is no report from the doctor [regarding the bite victim’s injuries].”
“All of these reports should be in the file and should have been made available to Mr. de la Rosa. I think the Department was in grave error.”
Startlingly, Quincey also pointed out that since the single biting episode occurred inside a private residence, it was “not a violation of the municipal code. There’s no way that dog could have been impounded [by Animal Services].”

“It’s inhumane to keep Stu locked in a cage. There’s numerous errors. I think this was wrong from the get-go. There should never have been charges filed — Stu’s completely innocent!”

Commissioner Kathy Riordan also addressed issues of denial of due process, questioning how Captain Brakemeier initially became involved, “It doesn’t seem like the General Manager asked for a report.”

Commissioner Quincey repeatedly asked Deputy City Attorney Dov Lesel, who has in the past been an advocate for the City’s case against Stu, “What can we do today? This has been going on [for years]. It’s got to stop!” He repeated his question as to what the Board could do immediately several times, “I think it should be done today.”

Lesel downplayed the urgency of the issue, saying it was “not an emergency situation,” therefore nothing needed to be done immediately, as the Appeals Court ruling could take weeks to be handed down. He also denied there was anything the Board could do to influence the situation, stating that “The City Council and the Mayor decide now.”
Quincey also demanded to know why his motion that the Board ask the City Attorney to drop its opposition to de la Rosa’s appeals on behalf of Stu, first introduced on April 14th, was never placed on the agenda for a Board meeting, despite assurances on that day from Animal Services Assistant General Manager Linda Barth that “the item is already agendized for the next meeting.”

Quincey’s motion to save Stu never subsequently appeared on the Board agendas as an “action item,” the designation Lesel said was required before the Board could vote on it. Then, as previously reported, the Board meeting immediately prior to June 18th arguments before the Appeals Court was abruptly cancelled.

Quincey asked, “Can we find out why it was not agendized? I introduced this motion over a month ago and the Department has been circumventing. Somebody has to give the Board an answer!”
Commissioner Riordan asked, “Is it purposely that the Department did not want to bring this up?”

Lesel, in an apparent attempt to disclaim responsibility for setting the meeting’s agenda, stated “I saw the agenda [for Monday’s meeting] on Sunday.”

Animal Services Assistant General Manager Linda Barth, who according to the minutes of the April 14th meeting informed the Board that Quincey’s motion would be on the agenda for the April 27th meeting (although it did not subsequently appear), and who was seen handing out printed copies of Monday’s agenda prior to the meeting’s start, remained silent as Commissioners demanded to know who was responsible for failing to place Quincey’s motion to spare Stu on the agenda prior to the June 18th Appeals Court arguments.

Meanwhile, supporters of the embattled Stu took the opportunity to appeal to the Board for mercy for the senior dog. Attorney Laura Beth Heisen said “We don’t have evidence that Stu is dangerous,” and she urged the Board to instruct the City Attorney to file a supplemental pleading with the Court of Appeals prior to the Court’s decision, arguing that “we don’t kill dogs when there’s a chance to fix it.”

Several members of the community stepped up to request clemency for Stu, as well as his return to de la Rosa. One supporter read an email from Laurel Barrick Rine, Chairman of the Grand Rapids Community Bite Prevention Committee, in which Rine states “I have researched dangerous dog legislation extensively. Universally such laws hold that a dog that is injured and in pain at the time of their bite is exempted from being labeled Dangerous Dogs.”

Commissioner Riordan stated that “Dangerous or not dangerous is not even an issue anymore. We owe this dog his trip home.”
This opinion that Stu is not a dangerous dog is also shared by Dr. Richard Polsky, a dog behavior expert who helped formulate the City standards for dangerous dogs in 1987, and by Bobby Dorofshar, an expert who has consulted with the City on various animal-related issues.

After Lesel shut down attempts by the Commissioners to take immediate action, Commissioner Riordan asked, “Can I just appeal to the Department that we will not kill Stu before the next Board meeting?” Barth agreed, while Lesel stated “I can’t see any reason why it can’t be on the next agenda.”

Commissioner Riordan reaffirmed her commitment to saving Stu, saying, “If there are any attempts at execution, they’ll have to knock me down at [the sanctuary where Stu is being kept].”

If you would like to register your opinion on Stu’s fate, you can contact the Mayor’s office at: (213) 978-0600
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reprinted from the LA Pet Rescue Examiner

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