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Charlie’s owner vows to fight death decree; new info shows past incident with human

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Clash with human: Charlie the dog, who was condemned to death after attacking a U.S. Park Police horse in August,  reportedly tried to bite a worker attempting to transport him to the SPCA for neutering during a June incident. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Clash with human: Charlie the dog, who was condemned to death after attacking a U.S. Park Police horse in August, reportedly tried to bite a worker attempting to transport him to the SPCA for neutering during a June incident.

The owner of San Francisco’s death row dog, Charlie, says he will fight a decision issued late Monday night to go through with euthanizing the American Staffordshire terrier.

“I’m devastated,” David Gizzarelli said. “There seems to be a lot of bad things going on.”

But new information obtained by The San Francisco Examiner on Tuesday shows that Charlie has not been a model pooch.

Before the August incident in which Charlie bit a U.S. Park Police horse while he was with Gizzarelli in an off-leash area of Crissy Field, the dog had a run-in with a human while in the custody of Animal Care and Control.

According to police reports and documents filed with the City Attorney’s Office, Charlie was in custody in June after Gizzarelli was arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault and elder abuse. The charges were later dropped, but at the time Gizzarelli had no one to take care of Charlie, so the dog was taken to Animal Care and Control.

By the next day, however, Gizzarelli’s mother, sister and girlfriend had tried to gain custody of Charlie.

Charlie wasn’t neutered at the time. Animal Care and Control tried to persuade Gizzarelli and his family to have Charlie neutered, but Gizzarelli tried several times to stop the procedure. In San Francisco, American Staffordshire terriers are one of several breeds that must be fixed.

Charlie was neutered June 19, after more than a week in custody. But Charlie was not taken to the SPCA for the procedure because he “lunged” at and “tried to bite” the person attempting to transport him, according to documents.

Gizzarelli said he was not informed of what had happened, and that this incident and the one with the horse are not related.

“They never told me about the lunge,” he said. “They never notified me. That’s pretty significant.”

Charlie had never had a violent encounter with another animal until the Crissy Field incident. The horse, Stoney, was bitten by Charlie and chased more than a mile down the beach.

Gizzarelli was unable to control Charlie, who sustained lacerations to his head and backside. Stoney suffered severe injuries to his stomach and hind legs, along with damage to his tendons.

Shortly after the incident, Charlie was deemed vicious and dangerous by the Police Department and ordered to be killed. Gizzarelli sued the department and received a stay until this week.

Officer John Denny of the SFPD’s Vicious and Dangerous Dog Unit said animal owners need to be able to keep their pets under control in any situation. That was not the case in the August incident.

“I’ve made my decision; I believe Charlie will attack again,” Denny said. “He will try and kill something else.”

Charlie’s story has captivated animal lovers worldwide. Several online petitions were created in hopes of saving his life. As of Tuesday, more than 91,000 people had signed an online petition at www.causes.com and more than 4,500 people had followed a Facebook page supporting Charlie. Hundreds of comments were left on the City Attorney’s Office’s Facebook page demanding the case be dropped. The office said Monday that it has no authority in the matter.

Rumors spread Tuesday that a compromise might be worked out. A posting on the Help Save Charlie Facebook page indicated that if Gizzarelli agreed to give up custody of Charlie, the dog could be saved.

Denny would not confirm or deny the rumors, but he did say rehabilitation is unlikely.

“You can’t displace the problem,” Denny said. “It has to be dealt with.”

akoskey@sfexaminer.com