An elderly Lodi man remains hospitalized nearly a week after a dog bit him Saturday, and city officials want the dog killed.
In court papers filed Thursday, Deputy City Attorney Janice Magdich asked that a judge declare the 3-year-old pit bull vicious and order it destroyed, and also asked that the owner be barred from owning dogs for three years.
The dog's owner, Sonja Gabales, did not immediately return a telephone message.
"I kind of feel sorry for them, but that dog is too dangerous," said Donald Morita, who is on strict bed-rest due to a fractured spine he suffered after the dog bit and knocked him over.
The black and white dog, Brutus, twice bit people last year and was also impounded three times in 2006 for running at -large, Magdich wrote in court papers.
It is only the fifth time the city has taken such action involving dogs in the seven years Stephen Schwabauer said he has worked as city attorney and previously as deputy city attorney. In four of those, the owner relinquished the dog. The fifth case went to trial and a judge ultimately ordered that the dog be destroyed.
On Saturday, according to a police report filed with the court papers, Morita walked up to Gabales' door in the 500 block of South Rose Street.
Morita, 85, intended to ask Gabales to keep the dog in her house while workers repaired a fence Gabales shares with Morita's sister. He was paying for the fence repairs because the dog regularly jumped the fence into his sister's yard, Morita said Thursday.
He had gotten halfway up the walkway when the 70-pound dog burst through an unlatched screen door, knocked Morita to the ground and bit his arm.
Morita remains in the hospital, where he has undergone surgery to reattach tendons and muscles in his arm and he needed 25 staples. He has a broken vertebra and a concussion.
Brutus, who is properly registered and vaccinated, is known to animal control officers and even bit Animal Services Officer Jennifer Bender in December, leaving tooth marks but not breaking the skin. The dog also bit a bicyclist last year, though the victim did not want to file a complaint.
At Bender's request, Gabales took the dog to the animal shelter to be quarantined, common procedure after a dog bite. Gabales told the officer that the dog is very protective of her daughter, and acknowledged that her screen door does not latch, Bender wrote in a report.
That acknowledgment, along with the dog's history, prompted city officials to file the court papers, citing Gabales' "apparent indifference to the need to secure her dog."
Gabales' case is being handled through a court process with a judge, rather than an administrative hearing, due to the "severity of the attack," Magdich said.
In a case last year, for instance, the city moved to have half a dozen pit bulls declared vicious after they were among 19 dogs seized from a Lodi home. That matter was handled administratively because the dogs displayed vicious behavior but had not attacked anyone, Magdich said.
Gabales' matter is set for a hearing June 11 in Lodi court.
Contact reporter Layla Bohm at firstname.lastname@example.org.