Supporters fight to save condemned S.F. dog

Nicole Macias is one of tens of thousands of pet owners who has been touched by the story of Charlie, the San Francisco dog now on death row.

During his incarceration, Charlie has made more human friends than he will ever know, including Macias. By Monday night, more than 90,000 people had signed an online petition at www.Causes.com to free Charlie, and the City Attorney’s Office’s Facebook page had been inundated with comments from around the world seeking his release.

Charlie is an 18-month-old American Staffordshire terrier who has been held at Animal Care and Control in The City since Aug. 23, when he was deemed vicious and dangerous after attacking a police horse weeks earlier.

“It could be my dog,” said Macias, a 31-year-old Castro resident. “That’s why it tugs at my heartstrings.”

Charlie will remain in custody until Wednesday, when a hearing will take place to decide his fate.

A U.S. Park Police officer and his horse, Stoney, were making the rounds at Crissy Field on Aug. 6 when they encountered Charlie and his owner, David Gizzarelli, at the unfenced off-leash dog park. When Charlie saw Stoney, he barked and snapped at the horse and officer. Stoney ran and Charlie followed. Gizzarelli said he was unable to stop Charlie. Both animals suffered injuries during the ensuing confrontation.

Charlie did not have a violent history before the incident. Nevertheless, Animal Care and Control found him to be vicious and dangerous, and he was ordered to be euthanized.

But Gizzarelli successfully stayed the decision and sued The City. The dispute is expected to conclude Wednesday, when a judge decides whether Charlie lives or dies.

“All the people out there supporting us are such a blessing,” Gizzarelli said. “It’s just amazing how everyone has come together; we are so blessed in all of this.”

The response has been so overwhelming that the City Attorney’s Office posted a clarification Monday afternoon saying it has no role in hearings about vicious dogs.

Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for the office, said he supported those expressing their opinions, but the comments were misdirected.

“The fate of Charlie is not in our hands,” he said. “We have a nondiscretionary duty under the City Charter to defend when sued. We were the one sued.”

Macias said her dog — a 9-year-old Labrador, pit bull and shar pei mix — would probably have reacted the same way.

“My dog has never seen a horse,” she said. “I have no idea what my dog would do if a horse came up. You can’t predict that kind of thing.”

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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