Animal Law

Calif. Judge Ponders Whether Dog That Bit Cop, Chased Police Horse 1.6 Miles Should Be Put Down

Updated and corrected: An unleashed male dog reportedly made a beeline for a mounted National Park Service police officer as the dog was out running with his owner on Aug. 6 in Crissy Field in the San Francisco area.

The dog, known as Charlie, bit the boot of the officer, Eric Evans, and the front leg of the police horse, known as Stoney, a police report recounts. The horse reared and threw Evans, who hit his head, momentarily losing consciousness. And then the dog chased the riderless horse, continuing to nip and bite it, as it galloped over 1.6 miles through The Presidio toward its stable, according to the police report. The chase concluded only after another park police officer on a motorcycle scared the dog away with his siren and air horn, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

Charlie’s owner, David Gizzarelli, was charged with assault on a police officer, assault on a police horse and failing to restrain a pet. He was released on his own recognizance. Meanwhile, his pet, who is being held by San Francisco animal control, got a death sentence.

Gizzarelli is appealing an Aug. 28 city order, which declared Charlie a “vicious and dangerous” dog, and a state superior court judge on Tuesday stayed the animal’s euthanasia until he can further review the case. A hearing is expected to be held within a few weeks, according to the newspaper.

Gizzarelli has retained a lawyer, Christine Garcia, and she blames what she claims was an inexperienced, poorly trained police horse for the Aug. 6 incident. She also calls into question both whether the city has the authority to put down the dog and whether Charlie actually bit Evans.

“It was his second day working,” said Garcia of Stoney. “I believe that when a working horse encounters a dog that the response from the horse should just be to stand still and remain calm. I believe that a horse trained to work in public wouldn’t be as skittish and wouldn’t fight.”

Update from Oct. 4, 2016:

In January 2013, the San Francisco Examiner reported that an agreement was reached between the city of San Francisco and Gizzarelli which spared Charlie from being euthanized. Under the agreement, Gizzarelli released Charlie to the city’s Animal Care and Control to go to a new home, according to the newspaper.

Gizzarelli contacted the ABA Journal in 2016 to comment on the story. He says that Crissy Field has been a well-known off-leash area for dogs for more than 40 years. Although reports stated that the dog, an American Staffordshire Terrier mix, was not neutered, Gizzarelli asserted that Charlie had been neutered prior to the incident.

“There were no witnesses in this case,” Gizarelli writes. “The park police and myself were the only witnesses. This statement is presented as fact. This is a one-sided statement. The ABA never contacted me for my statement. My statement is that Charlie was spooked, having never seen a horse before. While the horse did sustain injury, there is no compelling evidence that Charlie caused the injury. It is the opinion of the park police, not fact. Charlie chased the horse to the stables, a few blocks away, and stopped. There was no 1.6 mile chase. The horse ran out of control for 1.6 miles, but Charlie stopped after the horse kicked Charlie in the head, at the stables. There is NO evidence that Charlie bit the police officer, only hearsay statements by the park police. There is also NO evidence that the police officer was injured. He was examined by an EMT and released.”

Updated on Oct. 4, 2016 to add comments from Gizzarelli, to correct information about Charlie’s breed and neutering status, and to remove a stock image of a dog.

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