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Charlie the dog’s fate is decided today in a San Francisco court

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Charlie, an American Staffordshire terrier, could be condemned to death today for attacking an officer’s horse. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Charlie, an American Staffordshire terrier, could be condemned to death today for attacking an officer’s horse.

Today at 9:30 a.m., lawyer John Mounier will stand in front of Judge Harold Kahn and plead for Charlie’s life. Having assaulted a police horse at Crissy Field, he was sentenced to death even though he is a first offender, with no prior record of aggressive behavior.

Oh, and he’s a dog. An 18-month-old American Staffordshire terrier. And the “Charlie Deserves a Chance to Live” petition on Causes.com has been signed by more than 70,000 people. That’s more than the number of people who signed petitions to protect critical support for children in the federal budget, endorse the San Antonio plastic-bag ban and defend indigenous people of the Amazon — combined.

On Aug. 5, Charlie was in the off-leash area of the park when he attacked and bit a U.S. Park Patrol officer’s horse — Stoney — on the stomach and rear leg. Stoney tossed his rider and ran toward the stables. At some point during the struggle, Stoney kicked Charlie in the head. According to his owner, Charlie attacked Stoney because he was scared, having not seen a horse before.

John Denny, an officer with Animal Care and Control’s vicious and dangerous dog unit, ordered Charlie “destroyed.” His devoted owner, David Gizzarelli, has appealed the decision, and Charlie has been held ever since by Animal Care and Control with no visitation rights. One supporter lamented to the Board of Supervisors that this is “cruel and unusual punishment for a dog who has not been found ‘guilty’ yet.”

According to Gizzarelli, Charlie’s attorney plans to argue that the “hearing” Charlie previously received at Animal Care and Control was a farce and that “Charlie’s fate was predetermined.” In a city named after the patron saint of animals, where 70 percent of us just voted to repeal the death penalty, it’s hard to believe some resolution hasn’t been found to spare Charlie’s life, and spare the rest of us from paying to prosecute this case.

Melissa Griffin’s column runs each Thursday and Sunday. She also appears Mondays in “Mornings with Melissa” at  6:45 a.m. on KPIX (Ch. 5). Email her at mgriffin@sfexaminer.com.