Those passing through Starbucks on First Street and Wren Avenue for their morning lattes were taken aback when the coffee shop’s parking lot turned into a blood-spattered scene around 7:30 a.m. Thursday. The owner of a pit bull fled the scene after his dog allegedly attacked a smaller dog in the parking lot, giving it serious injuries that led to its euthanization, and sending its owner to the hospital.
The small dog owner’s injuries, Police Sgt. Chad Gallacinao said, were non-life threatening, but a pool of blood spread in the Starbucks parking lot, where a crowd of spectators surrounded the scene, according to Nicole Ashby, who witnessed the aftermath of the attack.
“People were pretty worked up about it,” Ashby said.
Multiple police cars and medics arrived on the scene at 7:30 a.m., and rushed the female owner to a local hospital, according to Police Sgt. Chad Gallacinao. Because of the severity of its injuries, the dog’s owner made the choice to put it down later Thursday morning, Gallacinao said.
Ashby said that the woman, devastated by seeing her dog attacked, reached out to stop the pit bull, only to have her arm attacked. Gallacinao said police are investigating whether or not the woman tried to intercept the attack.
When Maria Cabatingan, Gilroy Police animal control officer, arrived on the scene, she said that the pit bull was not on a leash, and that its owner was nowhere to be found.
Gallacinao said that the pit bull’s owner fled the scene after the attack, according to witnesses, but he did not say whether he fled on foot or by car or bike.
The pit bull is in custody at the GPD kennel, while police try to identify its owner. One caller to the newspaper said he thought the owner might live on El Cerrito Way, just a few blocks from the Starbucks on First Street.
“My main concern is finding out if this dog has rabies, since a person was bit by it,” she said.
Because the pit bull has a microchip, Gilroy Police are hot on the trail for its owner. While no arrests were made Thursday, Gallacinao said police contacted the dog’s previous owner, who cooperated and gave them information on the whereabouts of the current owner.
“It’s not a matter of if we find the owner, it’s when,” Gallacinao said.
Pit bull ownership regulation is a hotly debated topic in many cities around the country for their reputation of being violent dogs who were originally bred to fight. According to a 2000 study by Jeffrey Sacks about dog-bite fatalities, pit bulls account for one third of all human deaths caused by dog bites.
The pit bull of Thursday’s attack is considered to be a “level three” dangerous dog – the most dangerous type of dog spelled out in the Gilroy municipal code – and could be euthanized early next week, pending investigation, Gallacinao said. According to city code, the pit bull’s owner will also be liable for the cost of the dog’s impoundment, though it’s unclear how much it costs GPD to store the animal.
The city code also notes that any dog who bites another dog or human is open to a civil lawsuit from the human victim of the bite.
This pit bull attack comes after a series of local incidents of pit bulls attacking other animals, including a recent incident where two pit bulls attacked a horse in Morgan Hill that had to be euthanized as a result of its injuries.
Starbucks employees declined to comment on the incident and directed all inquiries to their corporate media line. A spokesman from Starbucks did call the Dispatch Thursday afternoon, but declined to comment about specifics of the attack, repeating a generic phrase about Starbucks’ commitment to creating positive customer experiences.
A police report has not been completed, but Cabatingan said she would finish the report by Thursday afternoon. Thursday afternoon calls to Cabatingan were not returned.
Gilroy resident Alan Spofford, 77, said he hopes the owner of the Thursday’s attack-dog is found quickly and held responsible. Spofford said his Australian cattle dog was attacked by a pit bull in his front yard on Miller Avenue and Sixth Street in 2008. The pit bull, which had gotten off its leash, barreled up to Spofford’s pet and went straight for its neck.
Spofford said his dog ran into the house, the pit bill chasing it into the kitchen. His dog eventually escaped through a doggy door and the pit bull was captured with the help of a neighbor.
His dog survived with some serious injuries to its ears. Spofford initiated civil action against the pit bull’s owner, but they never showed up to court, leaving Spofford with outstanding medical bills (he said he injured his knee in attempts to save his dog) and veterinarian bills.
“I’m just damn lucky my dog wasn’t killed,” Spofford said.
To those who aren’t so lucky, Spofford sends his sympathy – especially to the woman of the Starbucks parking lot attack.
“You have to make owners of these dogs held responsible, and if you don’t, it will just continue,” he said. “It’s called personal responsibility.”
If you witnessed the attack or have more information regarding the incident, contact the Gilroy Police Department at 846-0300.