News - December 3, 2008

Owner of dog that attacked horse given leash-law warning

by Dave Boyce

A warning about San Mateo County's leash laws is the extent of the sanction handed down by the Peninsula Humane Society to the owner of a pit bull dog that reportedly jumped up and bit a Woodside horse on the neck then hung there by its teeth until the horse shook it off.

In determining a penalty for the Nov. 15 attack on Phillip Road that resulted in Woodside equestrian Chiyoko Ono falling off the horse, the Humane Society's considered the severity of the horse's injury and the dog's behavior over time, spokesman Scott Delucchi said in a phone interview.

This dog had no history of biting, and the horse's wound was "minor" and "a single scratch," he said. "It seemed to be a single bite."

The Humane Society has three options available in the case of dog attacks: a leash-law warning, a "dangerous dog" designation that includes posting warnings on the owner's property and restraining the dog on a short leash when taken for a walk, or a "vicious dog" designation that ends by euthanizing the dog.

Ms. Ono, who related the story of the attack to The Almanac, said she was bruised all over after falling from her horse Vader as he bucked and jumped in fending off the dog's attack.

The dog's owner had been visiting Woodside. The Humane Society also directed the property owner to fix a hole in a fence that allowed the dog to get out of the yard and attack the horse.

If Ms. Ono wants more compensation for the physical and emotional injuries to herself and her horse — Vader is now "very nervous" around dogs, she said — she can file a civil action in court, but the Humane Society's involvement is at an end, Mr. Delucchi said.

Ms. Ono could need to see a chiropractor and may want to seek redress for her troubles, but that's between her and the dog's owner, he said.

Police and/or the district attorney's office would get involved only if the case showed evidence of animal cruelty or intent by the dog's owner to cause harm, and neither has turned up in this case, Mr. Delucchi said.

Asked if he had noted the significance of the dog having gone for the horse's neck, Mr. Delucchi replied: "We took everything into consideration."

"Whatever we do, it's one of those no-win situations," he added. "Especially with pit bulls, it seems to be one of those issues that's very polarizing."

Some people love pit bulls. They were a popular family dog at the turn of the 19th century, Mr. Delucchi said. Indeed, Petey, the dog with the black circle around its eye in the Little Rascals TV show, was a pit bull.

Other people hate them and want them "wiped off the face of the earth before they bite," he said.

Are they more dangerous in that once they bite, they lock their jaws and cannot be disengaged? "Everyone thinks that," Mr. Delucchi said, adding that while they do have a stronger bite capacity than any other breed and can do more damage when they bite, their jaws are not locked.


Posted by scout, a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Dec 3, 2008 at 6:11 am

Who appoints any authority of any type or kind to animal control?

I insist that we do NOT live in a communist State.

Nothing wrong with the dog. The dog owner simply should pay a get well fine to the horse lady, about $1,000, as this was a NO BITE situation.

One thing for certain, the creepy handing out of legal authority to idiots like animal control and fireplace people MUST STOP.

If those involved with the above don't like it, then go back to Burger King.


Posted by alekaneleno, a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Dec 3, 2008 at 9:31 am

With idiots and pit bull apologists like Mr. Delucci looking out for the public good we are all at risk. A dog that got loose, jumped up, bit a horse on the neck, and hung there until shaken loose isn't considered "vicious" or "dangerous"? What if it had been a child? The dog should now have a "history" of biting. Instead, the ever wimpy Mr. Delucci said it was an "no-win" situation and let the dog and its owner off the hook. No-win is right---for public safety. Let's hope that nothing else ever happens (hah!) and Mr. Delucci's conscience can remain clear. But the directors of Peninsula Humane society should review Mr. Delucci's attitude which seemed to be "blame the rider".

Posted by dog lover, a resident of Menlo Park: Fair Oaks
on Dec 3, 2008 at 10:36 am

You may not like the decision made not to go after the dog's owner, but you shouldn't blame the decision on Mr. Delucchi. He's only a spokesman for the humane society, not someone who decides matters like this.

I think there should be a fourth option -- or maybe a mandate: a stiff fine for the owner of an off-leash dog that attacks a person or another animal. Not only might it show that the county is serious about the law, but it would help defray costs of the investigation by humane society staff. My guess is that such an investigation has a hefty price tag, and the dog owner should bear a significant portion of the bill -- if not the whole thing.

Posted by PBTOwner, a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2008 at 2:33 pm

As an owner of a very loving American Pit Bull Terrier, I feel a "warning" was just not enough. As owners of any animal, we must ensure that they are not running at large causing harm to anyone or thing around them. This is the kind of failure of the system that could perhaps have us all back in 6 months watching the demand to have this breed be outlawed. Just as we must be responsible for our own actions in pulic, we must be responsible for our animals actions as well.
I do not think this dog owner should be thrown under the bus, accidents happen. But I just feel that a warning is not enough to send the message that we are all to take responsibility for our animals. There already is a warning system in place, and that is the leash law!
This breed of dog is under fire right now, and it is because of "mishaps" like this. The owner should be fined, and made to pay all horse and rider's medical bills. Emotional suffering? No... that is too far.
And Alek, 'what if' the horse had gotten loose in the park and trampled a child? It would be just as tragic. My point is, there will always be 'what ifs'. We can ask our government to regulate us to death, but that will never stop the what-ifs.

Posted by Maybe it can be easily settled, a resident of another community
on Dec 3, 2008 at 2:37 pm

Maybe the dog owner can do the classy thing and offer to pay for the horserider's treatment. When my dog knocked down a friend (not in aggression, in excitement), my fried had a sore back as a result and I paid for a series of massages. She had medical insurance, but massage did the trick. I was happy to pay. Many of these types of accidents can be handled politely and kindly between the involved parties. Animals will be animals, and and since we are the animals responsible for our owned animals' behavior, we must take responsibility.

Many dogs are horse aggressive, but not human aggressive. I saw a golden retriever go after a horse and bite it. How come that didn't make a headline? I suspect due to the dog's breed. The poster concerned about it could've been a child is wrong-headed. Besides, it wasn't a child, it was a horse. Move on people!

Posted by Did it happen on private property?, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Dec 3, 2008 at 2:39 pm

Reference was made to the dog getting out through a hole in the fence. Maybe the dog owner had no idea there was a hole in the fence and had their dog offleash on private property - totally legal, of course. I'm glad horse & rider are ok. It sounds like the horse's injury was actually quite minor.

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