Case of San Francisco death row dog Charlie heading to federal court 

click to enlarge Charlie the dog, who was condemned to die after attacking a U.S. Park Police horse in August, has inspired several supportive online petitions. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Charlie the dog, who was condemned to die after attacking a U.S. Park Police horse in August, has inspired several supportive online petitions.

The fate of Charlie — the American Staffordshire terrier on death row for attacking a police horse five months ago — has been extended until Jan. 11, when a federal court will take up the case.

Meanwhile, the City Attorney’s Office offered to have Charlie transferred to a rescue organization so long as his owner gives up custody.

According to a letter posted on one of the Facebook pages created to support the efforts to save Charlie, Deputy District Attorney Margaret Baumgartner said The City will not return the dog to his owner because “it does not believe that there are any restrictions that would adequately protect the public safety.”

Charlie’s owner, David Gizzarelli, also would be responsible for the cost of transferring him to a rescue organization.

Gizzarelli responded to the letter, saying he did not agree with The City’s decision to hold Charlie, but would need to know the organization The City intends to send Charlie to, as well as time to raise funds for the transfer.

So far, Gizzarelli has not given up custody, but he has been raising funds through online petitions at sites such as www.causes.com. The page, created in August, has more than 110,000 signatures in support of keeping Charlie alive. On the same page, donations of as little as $1 are requested to help with expenses. The total amount of funds raised is not known.

John Mounier, Gizzarelli’s attorney, said negotiations will continue with The City to find a reasonable solution. He also said the federal case was filed Monday in hopes of saving Charlie.

Mounier said they are asking the federal court to look at The City’s process for handling such cases, because currently the police officer investigating each case also interviews witnesses and acts as the judge and jury.

Mounier asserts the practice is unconstitutional.

“It downsizes due process,” he said. “Instead of having a separate investigator, prosecutor and judge, it’s all rolled into one.”

Charlie has been in custody since he attacked a U.S. Park Police horse while in an off-leash area of Crissy Field in August.

Later that month, he was ordered to be euthanized after being deemed “vicious and dangerous” by the Police Department. Gizzarelli then filed a lawsuit to reverse the decision.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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