LA Dog Jailed in Shelter for Almost 4 Years

By isak, June 18, 2009

Another story has surfaced today about a dog being held by Animal Services for a ridiculous amount of time for less than logical reasons. I swear dogs do better in the wild than in the company of domesticated humans.

Stu, Thanksgiving 2008In a nutshell, a dog, Stu, gets rescued from the streets in 2000 and lives happily and comfortable with his owner, Jeff de la Rosa, and two other dogs. Life is good!

Fast forward to 2005. Dela Rosa is called out of town for a family emergency and his assistant — familiar with the dogs — steps in to care for them. There is a scuffle between two of the dogs and Stu’s ear gets torn in the scuffle. The assistant attempts to put Stu’s harness on him so he can be taken to vet, but wounded Stu snaps at the assistant, puncturing her arm twice.

As an aside here, many injured dogs will snap at you. They usually give you pretty good notice that they do not want you to touch them, harness them, or in any way mess with them at this time. I had to medicate my own dog after a dog fight in order to check her wound and take her to the vet. As a further note I will say that dog ears can really bleed if caught just right and each time they shake their head, it starts the bleeding again. So I have to guess the assistant could have been so shaken up by the blood that she ignored the dog’s request to be left alone… much less have a harness slipped over his head. Just my guess here. I was not there.

De la Rosa offers to pay the assistant’s medical bills. She goes to the hospital for treatment and tells the emergency room staff she does not know the dog that bit her. She doesn’t call the police of L.A. Animal Services.

Three weeks later, de la Rosa is served with a lawsuit seeking $6 million in damages for the assistant. Ten days later, de la Rosa comes home to find Stu missing from a locked outside kennel.

He receives a call from Animal Services that Stu has been “found and brought in by an unidentified private citizen.” When de la Rosa arrives at the kennel to retrieve his dog, he is told they just received a bite report on Stu and refuse to release him.

The story stinks so far, huh? Well hold on because we are now going to bring in the city and laws and courtrooms… all this man-made bullshit that can put a dog in limbo until he dies which you have to wonder if, in some cases, is the intent… definitely an abuse of power and terribly cruel and inhumane.

I am not against laws pertaining to biting dogs, but I am against them when they are issued without regard to the specific conditions in place when the incident occurred. I am against them when they ignore evidence that the dog is anything other than “dangerous.” I am against them when they just “assume” this is the nature of this animal. And I am against them when they display flagrant prejudice to the breed of the dog.

I am also against the way so many animals in these situations get buried in the legal wranglings and spend such a large chunk of their lives in jail. For the sake of argument, let’s say a dog lives 15 years. This number may be good for smaller dogs but is generally less for larger dogs, then there are many other variables… so just for the sake of argument, let’s say a dog’s life is 15 years. Stu has been jailed to this point for almost 25 per cent of his life. In the generalized numbers of “dog years” Stu has been jailed for 28 dog years because his owner’s assistant made a mistake. She thought she was doing the right thing in taking the dog to the vet, but she ignored Stu’s probable hints that he did not want to be touched.

Per LAAS policy, a Hearing Examiner’s recommendation will determine the outcome. However, a Department Captain seemingly unrelated to the matter, intercedes and deems Stu a “dangerous dog” with a sentence of death. Did she personally meet and evaluate the dog? Does she have the authority to overrule the Hearing Examiner?

Stu has been held by the City or in City-designated facilities since his mysterious exit from a locked kennel (the gate on his fence had been pried open from the outside), and de la Rosa has been fighting to save his dog’s life since. Two respected dog behaviorists have evaluated Stu and stated he is NOT aggressive towards humans.

A motion from within the Animal Services Commission to drop the city’s opposition to de la Rosa’s appeal has somehow not appeared on the agenda. Author of the motion, Commissioner Archie Quency, wants the case returned to the Superior Court and wants that court to set aside Stu’s sentence based on evidence that the dog had been denied due process. Surprise! Without warning or explanation, the last scheduled meeting was cancelled.

The next meeting is June 22nd. When Commissioner Quincey was asked if the motion would be discussed, he said, “If it’s not on the agenda, I’m going to raise hell. I think it’s gone too far. I have a lot of Animal Control experience. I saw the pictures [of the human victim’s injuries], there were a couple of small puncture wounds — and the dog was injured when it happened. On that one bite Stu gets the ultimate penalty? That’s like getting the electric chair for a misdemeanor!” Further, he said, “I think Stu should go home.”

This story sounds so much like the story of Brindi, a dog being held in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She, too, is being buried under political games.

Who pays the biggest price? The animal. What is gained? Nothing.

The legal processes are infinite, but a dog’s life is not. Make some noise, folks for the release of Stu and the release Brindi.