Shelter Volunteers Plead for Dog's Life

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Animal advocates and shelter volunteers are trying to save a 5-year-old pit bull named Precious from being euthanized next week as a vicious dog, hoping Los Angeles County authorities will allow her live out her days at a nonprofit sanctuary in Washington.

Precious has spent more than a year kenneled in an animal shelter for allegedly biting and severely injuring a dog-sitter. Her owners say it was another dog, Miley, one of Precious' two pups, who bit the man, who they allege mistreated the animals.

The victim of the attack told authorities that when a smoke alarm went off in the motel room where the dogs were staying, “Precious lunged at me and bit my throat” before the other two dogs, her 3-year-old pups named Miley and Grumpy, also attacked.

But a transcript of an earlier hearing provided to City News Service includes contradictory testimony about whether a witness to the attack saw two or all three dogs attacking the man.

County authorities declared all three vicious and potentially dangerous, a designation that allows them to euthanize animals to protect the public.

Animal advocates and volunteers at the Baldwin Park Shelter, however, describe Precious as gentle and friendly and have gathered more than 1,970 signatures of support online.

“There's not a mean bone in her body,” animal advocate Jul Dee told City News Service. “We know dogs pretty well.”

Despite being isolated in a cage since August 2017, Precious remains sweet and happy to get attention, according to Dee and other volunteers, who contradict statements by an animal control officer that she is aggressive.

The dog's owners and others became emotional while pleading their case to the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

“I don't feel she's at all aggressive,” Tanaya Mang told the board. “I'm not the one that fights for every impossible dog. But I feel that she deserves a chance.”

Dee said, “It would be unconscionable to destroy a dog so beloved by so many workers when there's humane alternatives offered. We're here to implore that you let Precious live.”

Owner Melva Calderon told CNS she and her partner paid for an independent assessment of Precious' temperament and were told she could be saved, though her pups could not be rehabilitated. However, an attorney advised them that the dog will not be allowed to return home given the county's concerns about public safety. So advocates are asking that Precious be allowed to go to either a sanctuary in Roy, Washington, or another placement pending in Indianapolis.

A hearing before a judge is set for Wednesday, but Calderon said she was told by the Department of Animal Care and Control that she would not be allowed to testify.

Calderon said she and her partner -- who were living in a motel room at the time of the August attack after being evicted from their home -- have paid out more than $3,000 in county fees and continue to pay roughly $500 a month on behalf of Precious while awaiting the appeal.

Miley and Grumpy were put down in May.

“Nothing that I do is going to bring them back,” Calderon said, explaining that she sold her car to try to raise the money to pay county kennel fees for the pups while waiting for a court date to appeal the vicious dog designation.

“I got there at 5:19 p.m.,” Calderon said. “They got killed at 5:01 p.m.”

She admitted that Miley had previously bitten someone, but said the attacks were provoked.

Several witnesses testified at the earlier hearing that Miley got loose from a garage and attacked and nearly killed an 11-year-old pug-beagle mix named D.J. in March 2017 and injured two people trying to defend the dog. Miley then bit another man in June 2017, according to the transcript.

A spokesman for the Department of Animal Care and Control said many details of the investigation could not be disclosed.

“Making the decision to euthanize an animal is never easy, and our department always tries to find solutions for behaviorally challenged dogs,” DACC spokesman Don Belton told CNS. “Although our goal is to find homes for as many animals as possible, we are equally responsible to protect public safety and make this our priority.”

While the department is faced with euthanizing hundreds of stray dogs each year when they cannot find adoptive homes, it is relatively rare that dogs with permanent homes have to be put down.

Belton said that four dogs deemed vicious have been euthanized so far this year.

The county's legal definition of a vicious dog includes one that, unprovoked, bites a person or injures a pet or livestock on someone's else property, as well as serial offenders that provoke defensive action to avoid injury.

DACC has aggressively pursued adoption programs and partnered with about 250 animal rescue groups try to find permanent homes for animals that end up in their shelters. The department also works with 50 shelters nationwide, transporting animals to organizations that have more capacity.

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