Thursday, April 12, 2007

AAA Andy, Boxer, the SF SPCA, and a Glue Factory - San Francisco's Dog Blog

"Burying the Lead" is a tactic journalists use to hide shocking truths from the public, by burying critical information in the depths of the reporter's blather. The editors here at San Francisco's Dog Blog were informed of a prime example of this tactic perpetrated in the pages of the San Francisco Chronicle, and because it relates to irresponsible dog owners and the SF SPCA, we felt compelled to share.

On Wednesday, April 11, 2007, the Chronicle's Steve Rubenstein wrote what appears to be a puff piece about three San Francisco police horses that were being retired. In an elaborate public relations ceremony, Police Chief Heather Fong signed over ownership of the horses to the SF SPCA, which apparently cares for retired police horses at the Rocking B Ranch. Warm fuzzies all around.

But then 11 paragraphs in, after an incongruous topic sentence, the Chronicle dropped this on its readers:

As for AAA Andy, he hasn't worked since 2003, when he was bitten and seriously injured by an off-leash pit bull in Golden Gate Park, after which he threw his rider, Sgt. David Herrera. The sergeant was treated at a hospital for back and neck injuries.

And that's when it all came back. You see, the 2003 off-leash dog attack on AAA Andy was no ordinary incident. It was perpetrated by a long-time SF SPCA volunteer with a pit bull she adopted from the SF SPCA. Unfortunately the volunteer liked to let the dog roam Golden Gate Park off-leash illegally, which is where the trouble with this story--and the SF SPCA--lies.

Relying on the unscientific, ideological approach to dog behavior irresponsibly promoted by Jean Donaldson and the SF SPCA, the volunteer presumed that her well-trained pit bull could roam off-leash wherever she liked under the volunteer's learned eye without incident. So she allowed the pit bull to roam off-leash near Golden Gate Park's Conservancy of Flowers, which is not one of the City's numerous legal dog play areas. But as the Chronicle reported, she couldn't have been more wrong:

The pit bull mix that attacked a police horse in Golden Gate Park belonged to an SPCA volunteer who took the dog to senior centers to comfort the elderly and liked to let it run free in the park. On Monday, the SPCA volunteer, Anna Klafter, was recovering from a possible fractured skull and other injuries she suffered the day before when she tried to pull her 4-year-old dog, Nettie, away from the horse. The horse,which injured Klafter when it kicked her in the face, was trying to get its bearings back to the police stables in Golden Gate Park. The police officer who was riding the horse was getting over a back injury. And Nettie was at the vet, suffering from a gunshot wound and facing a police hearing on her fate.

At the time, Police Sgt. Phil Downs seemed exasperated by the irresponsibility bred by the SF SPCA. "This is the biggest hazard we face," Downs said. "We hear all the time, 'Oh, I didn't know that the dog would attack the horse.' "

Which makes the irony here quite Orwellian. Like Animal Farm's Napoleon placing Boxer's retirement in the hands of a glue factory, the Police have now placed AAA Andy's retirement in the hands of those who put the horse on permanent disability in the first instance.

"The horse is good,'' Sgt. Downs said the week of the accident. "The ill effects will be seen down the road. Unfortunately, a horse has a long memory.'' Apparently much longer than a human's.

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