by Laura Allen for the Animal Law Coalition
This is not really my story to tell. I came late to the effort to save Lucy’s life. An effort that ultimately failed today.
But I feel compelled to tell this story, yet another example of disrespect for the law when it concerns an animal’s well-being, the arrogance of public officials who don’t get that they work for us, not the other way around.
Under California’s Dangerous Dog Law as I understand Lucy’s history, she could not even really have been called a "potentially dangerous" dog. Cal Food & Agr Code § 31602. She had no history of biting or lunging at any person. And, Lucy had not attacked another animal on two separate occasions in a 36 month period. Even if she could be classified as "potentially dangerous" under state law, at most her people would have been required to comply with certain licensing and other requirements. Cal Food & Agr Code §§ 31621, 31641, 31642. Under state law she was not to be killed, however.
Lucy was certainly not a "vicious" dog within the meaning of state law. It is much easier for officials to declare that a dog is "vicious" under Sunnyvale’s Municipal Code which basically says any dog can be declared vicious if it without provocation chases or otherwise threatens or bites a person or animal. Sec. 6.04.160
But even then state law is clear that "No dog may be declared potentially dangerous or vicious if an injury or damage was sustained by a domestic animal which at the time the injury or damage was sustained was teasing, tormenting, abusing, or assaulting the dog." Cal Food & Agr Code § 31626. Note the Sunnyvale code says a dog can be declared vicious only if it was not provoked. And, there is evidence the dog that Lucy got in a fight with, the Chihuahua, had teased and tormented her and tried to bite the 2 year old child in her family.
Regardless, the Sunnyvale authorities declared Lucy was vicious and ordered her death. The City Attorney, David Kahn, concurred. Yet, not only was there evidence Lucy was provoked or teased, the Sunnyvale law states the killing of a vicious dog is just one option and only available if Animal Control determines the dog "poses a threat" to the "public health and safety." Sec. 6.08.115
There was no evidence Lucy posed any threat to the "public health and safety". The city’s own dog behaviorist evaluated Lucy and reported she was a "very friendly, well-socialized dog". Lucy’s family also hired a dog behaviorist who testified on a scale of 0 to 10 with 10 as very aggressive towards humans, Lucy was a 0. The staff of the humane society where Lucy was kept during this ordeal reported she was friendly, a loving, sweet girl.
In fact, Lucy was part of a family, Ian Young, Desiree Hedberg, and 2 year old Liam, pictured here with Lucy. They loved her. The family had fostered dogs from public shelters for some time, relying on Lucy to help socialize these dogs.
Even if Lucy posed a threat to the public, the Sunnyvale code also makes clear there are other options to consider: Her family could have been ordered to obtain a permit to keep her as a vicious dog under certain conditions. Lucy could have been removed from the city.
Note also the California Hayden Law states:
1834.4. (a) It is the policy of the state that no adoptable animal should be euthanized if it can be adopted into a suitable home….
(b) It is the policy of the state that no treatable animal should be euthanized. A treatable animal shall include any animal that is not adoptable but that could become adoptable with reasonable efforts…."
In an appeal of the decision Lucy must die, Judge Brian Walsh indicated he would like to save her by ordering her to be removed from the city. Several rescue groups and individuals had offered to do just that.
But David Kahn, the city attorney, would not hear of it. He convinced the judge to order Lucy’s execution.
During an appeal to the Sunnyvale city council to save Lucy, Lucy’s family urged the council members to allow her at the least to leave the city. There were over 25 declarations offered in support of Lucy. Kahn told the city council Lucy had a bite history and had even "severely" injured someone. It is not clear the city council even learned that its own behaviorist found Lucy was a "friendly, well-socialized" dog. Kahn did not return calls from Sunnyvale residents and others offering help, offering to take the dog out of the city.
Kahn worked hard to make sure Lucy would die.
As for the Sunnyvale city council, the 12,339 signatures offered in support of Lucy’s cause did not move them. One person who called to plead Lucy’s case reported the city council member was rude, arrogant. People who called Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for help were laughed at by his staff who told at least one caller, "The governor doesn’t pardon dogs".
In view of the lack of a bite history, her good temperament and the circumstances of the incident, the laws indicated Lucy should live and at the same time, listed restrictions, if necessary, to protect other animals in the future. The law contemplated a feasible though under the evidence, extreme solution, of removing her from the city. But the city attorney, David Kahn, would not let the laws work. He failed to follow the letter and spirit of the state and local potentially dangerous and vicious dog laws.
Instead, he pursued a vendetta against this dog. Why? Arrogance? Show of power? Anger because people voiced their opinions Lucy should live? Because she was a pit bull? Or, did he think because she was a dog that laws concerning her behavior and well-being could be disregarded, ignored, that when it comes to animals, it doesn’t really matter and he can do what he wants?
Is that what the Sunnyvale city council and Governor Schwarzenegger thought?
Lucy lost her life because of the abuse of power by these officials, because of their disregard for laws affecting animals, their indifference to animals. Maybe it’s time they lost their jobs.
Click here to view the onlineÂ memorial for Lucy.