Canine News from Near and Far, May 2007


$500K Award in bite case

On March 21, a San Francisco jury awarded over $500K to a woman who was mauled by a pit bull in 2005. She was bitten in the face and suffered severe laceration to the mouth. Her injuries required plastic surgery and, according to her attorney, resulted in permanent scarring and nerve damage.

The woman was attacked by one of two pit bulls tethered to a lamppost in the Mission District. The dogs had been involved in earlier incidents and had been declared “vicious and dangerous” by SF Animal Care and Control. To avoid having them put down, their owner promised to keep them leashed and muzzled in public.

Three weeks later, the owner’s son left the unmuzzled dogs loosely tied to a lamppost outside a fast food restaurant. He fled with the dogs after the attack, but was apprehended ten blocks away.

Unfortunately, such stories feed a “monster myth” about this particular breed. In fact, such attacks are rare and Pit Bulls make loyal and loving pets. To learn more about these great dogs, see


Burned dog update

Bobby, the 15-pound, 10-year-old Jack Russell terrier who was rescued last month from a house fire, was finally able to go home. As a result of his injuries, he is mostly blind, with major scars on his nose, and though he can hear, no longer has ears. Still, his owner Janette Gerl, calls him “the happiest dog ever.”

Bobby was trapped in the home when the fire broke out. Michael Keenan, Gerl’s house-sitter and friend, went back into the building to save the dog.

Bobby endured 10 surgeries and still has severe burns on one of his front legs. But on March 14, he left Pets Unlimited, a San Francisco animal shelter and hospital that both saved his life and waived a bill of more than $26,000. Amazingly, the hospital has a provision that allows burn victims free treatment.

Bobby’s rescuer suffered burns to 80 percent of his body and is still in intensive care. To donate to the Michael J. Keenan Support Fund visit


New Bill addresses overpopulation

A new State Assembly Bill, AB 1634, introduced on March 16 by Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, would require all dogs and cats to be fixed unless they are registered purebreds and have government-issued permits.

Fighting dog and cat overpopulation is the driving force behind the bill, which was developed by a coalition of veterinarians, animal welfare agencies and activists, and government officials. This problem results in the euthanizing of nearly half a million dogs and cats every year, according to the bill’s authors, and forces large cities to expand and build costly new animal shelters.

If the bill becomes law, only animals who are purebred and registered with the American Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club, the American Dog Breeders Association, or the International Cat Association would be exempt. Professional animals, such as guide dogs and police canine units, would also be exceptions to the rule. 

Exempt pets would need permits, which would probably carry fees of $100 to $150. 

Owners of pets older than 4 months who aren’t altered and do not have permits would face costly fines under the proposed law. A citation would give them “30 days to alter the animal without penalty or pay a $500 fine for the first month and $50 for each subsequent month.”

The fines and permit fees generated by the new law would help local animal control agencies pay for their community-based spaying and neutering programs. 

To learn more visit


SPCA Dog-Napping

On Sunday, March 18, a six-year-old Rat Terrier Mix pooch named Tai was dog-napped from the San Francisco SPCA. A spokesman for the organization said that there had been other thefts in her ten years on board, but usually by people who wanted a particular shelter dog but didn’t meet adoption criteria. 

In this case, the perpetrators were four men in their early twenties who were caught on surveillance cameras. Two of them came in an employee entrance and grabbed the first dog they saw, Tai, while the others waited outside in the getaway vehicle.

Fortunately, the following Tuesday a tearful teenager returned the dog to a volunteer dogwalker at SF/SPCA. The boy did not look like any of the young men caught on camera. He expressed remorse, said he really wanted a dog, but knew that what happened wasn’t right.

Tai’s owner died last Christmas season and had been in the SF/SPCA shelter since January. The Saturday after his return, he was adopted by a couple who first saw him on KTVU when the dognapping story broke. His new family includes a female rat terrier, so Tai now has a sister.

Since the police had no solid leads in the case and Tai was returned safely, the investigation was closed.


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