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Hearing to decide fate of dog in police horse incident

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Wanted dog: Charlie, an American Staffordshire terrier, started barking at a police horse in Crissy Field on Aug. 6. Charley bit the horse and toppled its rider. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • Wanted dog: Charlie, an American Staffordshire terrier, started barking at a police horse in Crissy Field on Aug. 6. Charley bit the horse and toppled its rider.

David Gizzarelli said that since he was arrested last week after his dog chased down and bit a police horse, he has been extra careful when taking his four-legged friend for walks.

“I’m scared to let him off the leash now,” the 44-year-old Gizzarelli said of Charlie, his 18-month-old American Staffordshire terrier. “It’s definitely been life-changing.”

On Aug. 6, a U.S. Park Police mounted officer was doing routine patrols near the West Bluff area of Crissy Field when Charlie saw the horse and started barking. National Park Service spokesman Howard Levitt said the owner tried to control his pet, but the dog would not comply.

Charlie chased down the horse and that’s when “things got more out of control,” as the horse started spinning in the field, possibly because it was spooked, Gizzarelli said. The officer was injured when the horse fell down.

“I was doing my best to get my dog,” Gizzarelli said. “My dog is very fast, and the horse is fast. I couldn’t get him.”

Gizzarelli said he was with Charlie in the designated off-leash area of the park, but he is still sorry the incident happened.

When Charlie caught up with the police horse, he bit the horse’s stomach and rear leg, Levitt said. Charlie suffered injuries too, Gizzarelli said. The dog was kicked on both sides of his torso, has a gash from the horse’s hoof on his backside and injuries to his head.

Both Gizzarelli and Charlie were taken into custody.

Charlie has a hearing Aug. 28 with Animal Care and Control. He could face restrictions, be put in the care of a new owner or even euthanized. But Charlie does not have any prior vicious incidents.

Gizzarelli is due in court in October to face federal charges of failing to maintain and control an animal and assault on a police officer.

This is Gizzarelli’s second dog of the same breed. He said he’s surprised by the stereotypes, noting that Staffordshires are often mistaken for pit bulls.

“It’s a label,” Gizzarelli said. “Charlie is a domesticated animal; he’s not trained to fight.”

akoskey@sfexaminer.com