The dachshund laid in a pool of its own blood. Dazed and nearly passed out from an injury to her arm, Luann watched the pit bull’s owner strut away minutes before police arrived.
Two weeks after the July 22 pit bull attack on the sidewalk in front of Starbucks on First Street, the victim’s arm is healing – but seeing 4-year-old Sam, her “little man,” torn up right in front of her eyes stirred something in her that day. Luann is ready to fight.
Luann, who did not want her last name published, thinks the owner of the pit bull that killed her dog should be prosecuted to the “highest degree,” and isn’t afraid to give the City an earful for what she described as their “lax treatment” of aggressive dogs and their owners.
Meanwhile, the Humane Society of the Central Coast wants to step in and help the City with future animal control problems like these.
“As a Humane Society, we currently can’t enforce any city ordinances, we are limited to the state law, unless we enter a contract with the city,” said Scott Borgioli, Humane Society of the Central Coast president.
That “contract” could help alleviate some of the public’s concerns with animal control issues, by allowing the Humane Society to support police with animal control enforcements.
Borgioli sent a letter to Mayor Al Pinheiro, City Administrator Tom Haglund and Police Chief Denise Turner on Wednesday, offering a partnership free of charge to the city, in which the Humane Society will educate the community on proper animal care, as well as help out with enforcing the city’s animal ordinances.
As for the long term, Borgioli would like to see the Humane Society take over animal control services for the city – including investigations into animal cruelty and aggressive animal incidents – for a “nominal” annual fee that he hasn’t yet determined.
“The truth is, our police need help,” he said, noting that Gilroy Police have only one animal control officer. “They are too busy with more serious things to enforce animal ordinances.”
The Humane Society is a nonprofit that relies on private and corporate donations, as well as government grants, that seeks to prevent animal cruelty and educate the public about animal issues.
It’s not uncommon for cities to launch some sort of partnership with their local Humane Societies. In fact, Borgioli said about one-third of California cities already have.
Upon reading Borgioli’s letter, Mayor Al Pinheiro was pleased with the prospects of a partnership.
“This sounds like something we should talk about further,” Pinheiro said. “At first brush, it sounds like a very positive way to effect some of the issues we’re facing.”
Councilman Dion Bracco’s voice elevated when he heard about the offer.
“That sounds like a great idea,” he said. “We haven’t had help for such a long time, and it makes things really hard. It would be really nice to get some services.”
It’s too soon to tell what it would look like for the Humane Society to take over animal control for the city, Borgioli said, but it could involve the Humane Society dedicating one full-time investigator to handle all animal-related issues, or at least work in tangent with Gilroy Police for animal-related issues.
“It’s not our intent to step on anyone’s toes,” Borgioli said. “All we want to do is help, and I hope the city will be receptive to our offer. The issue of animal welfare is on the minds of everybody in the Gilroy community right now. It’s time for us to see what we can do to help.”
The recent pit bull attack may have brought animal welfare on the forefront of people’s minds – but none have been directly affected as much as Luann, the bubbly, 34-year-old Gilroy woman recovering from the attack.
Luann stood on the sidewalk in front of Starbucks, combating waves of tears as she rehashed a play-by-play of the attack that caused her dog to be euthanized and her arm to be injured.
Two weeks ago, Luann said she was working on her laptop at a table outside Starbucks with a Diet Cherry Pepsi at 7:30 a.m., a leashed Sam sleeping on a blanket by her side, when a gray pit bull barreled up to Sam, locking its jaw on his neck and dragging him away.
Luann said when the pit bull reprieved for a moment, she reached down and picked up wounded Sam, causing the pit bull to hone in on her arm. Meanwhile, other patrons whacked the pit bull with their chairs, in desperate attempts to help.
“My Sam’s intestines were spilled out on the ground, right there,” she said, gasping for air between sobs and pointing to the sidewalk directly in front of the Starbucks entrance.
At first, the pit bull owner – who Luann described as a mid-20s Hispanic “gangster-type” with a scar under his left eye – tried to restrain his dog. She said the pit bull was not on a leash (or had at least bolted from its leash), but as the scene grew more dismal, with Luann nearly passed out on a chair bleeding from cuts and bruises to her arm, and the dachshund lying in a pool of his own blood, Luann said he fled.
“He actually strutted away,” said a 20-year-old Starbucks barista who witnessed the whole thing, mimicking the swagger in the man’s step. “It was sickening.”
When several people yelled after him to come back, he ran off in the direction of El Cerrito Way, the barista said. She asked not to be named because of Starbucks’ corporate policy about speaking with the press.
As for Luann, she is healing from her arm injury and grieving the loss of her pet. She scrolled through photos on her iPhone of Sam – Sam getting a bath, Sam dressed up for Halloween, Sam pouting with a large plastic cone around his neck after being neutered, and at least a dozen more.
“I want that pit bull to be thrown into a den with lions, so it can go through what he did to my baby,” Luann said, her voice rising.
But Luann may not need lions. Angry that the pit bull’s owner may not face criminal charges, she is ready to devour the City of Gilroy for their “lax treatment” of aggressive dog owners.
“The mayor needs to know that this won’t go down quietly,” she said. Luann said she has spent more than $2,000 on medical and veterinarian bills from the attack.
She’s also gearing up to start a nonprofit organization called Sam’s Place, which will advocate stricter state laws against pit bulls and their owners.
“I want to see that man in jail,” she said. “He was the coward that left me here, injured with a dying dog, and for that he should be prosecuted to the highest degree.”