Animal groups hoping Charlie the dog’s owner will give up custody 

click to enlarge The City Attorney’s Office offered Charlie the dog, who was condemned to death after attacking a U.S. Park Police horse, the chance to live if his owner gave him up, but his owner is fighting the move. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • The City Attorney’s Office offered Charlie the dog, who was condemned to death after attacking a U.S. Park Police horse, the chance to live if his owner gave him up, but his owner is fighting the move.

Animal advocate groups believe Charlie’s owner is irresponsible and should give up custody in order to spare the American Staffordshire terrier from his death sentence.

Richard Rosenthal, legal counsel for The Lexus Project, a nonprofit aimed at protecting animals and not owners, spoke with KGO radio’s Tim Montemayor on Sunday about Charlie and his owner, David Gizzarelli.

“At no point has David taken responsibility for it,” Rosenthal said of the August incident in which Charlie attacked a U.S. Park Police horse. “The best thing in the world for this dog would be to not be with David. He is not a responsible owner, and to give him back to David is simply to invite yet another incident at some time in the future.”

The nearly 2-year-old dog has been in custody since the incident with the horse in Crissy Field. Charlie was off his leash at the time, which is permitted in the area as long as the dog is under voice control.

Shortly after the incident, the dog was deemed vicious and dangerous by the Police Department’s vicious and dangerous dogs unit and sentenced to death. Gizzarelli sued The City to stop the action, but a Superior Court judge upheld the decision. Recently, Gizzarelli filed a lawsuit in federal court asking to have the Police Department unit’s setup examined.

Charlie’s sentence has been stayed until the U.S. District Court hearing, which is scheduled for Friday.

Gizzarelli said Sunday that Rosenthal did not have all the facts of the case and his own goal has always been to bring Charlie back home.

“What is that based on?” Gizzarelli said in response to Rosenthal’s claim he is an irresponsible owner. “This is Charlie’s first offense. It’s the first problem I’ve had with him.”

Gizzarelli also appeared on the radio talk show Saturday morning.

On Facebook, where Gizzarelli launched a campaign to bring awareness to the case, opinions have become much more polarized. Many initially supported Gizzarelli, but recent discussions have turned.

Others continue to support Charlie — even more so after the City Attorney’s Office offered a deal to Gizzarelli to send his dog to a sanctuary if he relinquished custody. Gizzarelli has declined to do so.

Aside from Sunday’s radio appearance, The Lexus Project has been vocal about taking Charlie away from Gizzarelli. Additionally, the Millan Foundation, which supports rescues and rehab centers for dogs, also was contacted by Charlie supporters to intervene. In a letter posted to The Lexus Project’s Facebook page, the foundation said Gizzarelli has turned away several organizations.

“Trust this...there is no conspiracy going on here. This story has many holes and has been dramatized,” the letter stated. “Sadly, this all falls to David now and it is David who will likely decide his dog’s fate.”

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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