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Charlie’s owner is the only one who can save his dog

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As the saying goes, if you love something, set it free.

The story of Charlie the death row dog has become an international sensation ever since the young American Staffordshire terrier was condemned for attacking a U.S. Park Police horse in August. Many folks have come to the defense of Charlie — and his owner — because the Crissy Field incident was the first documented incident in which the dog behaved in such a way. Supporters are confident that their outrage is justified.

It’s easy to understand why this story has had a significant impact on people. Charlie is a defenseless animal and of a breed often judged harshly in the court of public opinion.

And it’s easy to understand why Charlie’s owner, David Gizzarelli, wants to keep his beloved pooch — pets are companions, and we love them as much as anything.

But often when we want to believe something so much, we are blind to the inherent realities before us. And the reality here is that while this is a sad story, it does not need to have a sad ending.

San Francisco — like most municipalities — has in place a system for determining the threat posed by domesticated animals. And that system has concluded, without apparent bias, that Charlie is dangerous and cannot be rehabilitated enough to live in society.

However, The City has thrown Charlie a bone. If Gizzarelli gives up his guardianship of Charlie, and pays to have him sent to a rescue facility, the dog will not be euthanized. The City — the supposed bad guy here — has even recommended this option over death.

Yet apparently this is not enough for Gizzarelli, who has shown a determination to prove that his dog is not dangerous and should be allowed to remain in his care. Online petitions have been started, Facebook pages supporting Charlie and Gizzarelli have been created, and various San Francisco agencies — including some with no jurisdiction over the matter — have been lambasted for a decision they took no part in.

Gizzarelli has one more shot in a federal courtroom Friday. He is prepared to ask a judge to toss the Police Department’s findings, under the pretense that the Vicious and Dangerous Animals Unit is poorly operated. This would essentially restart a process that could end in a more favorable ruling for Charlie, and thus Gizzarelli.

That, however, is not likely to happen. The police officer whose ruling created this firestorm has steadfastly stuck by his decision, and he is an expert in this particular field. A lawsuit Gizzarelli filed against The City was tossed out. Facts have emerged that call into question Gizzarelli’s handling of the situation and Charlie’s innocent past. And animal advocacy groups have publicly called on Gizzarelli to give up custody.

It’s time for Gizzarelli to end this saga, and for the digital chorus to stop howling at the moon. There is a life at stake here, and shouldn’t the ultimate goal be keeping that heart beating? Supporters have donated money to Charlie’s cause. If Gizzarelli agrees to give up Charlie, you can bet more will come.

That money should be used to find Charlie a sanctuary where he can get the proper support he needs.

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