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September 4, 2012 > Letter to the Editor: Why was Junior killed?

Letter to the Editor: Why was Junior killed?

Submitted By Larisa Scharikin

The following is part of public record in Case 3:12-CV04333SI, Mittasch, et.al, v. City of Fremont, et.al., that was heard on Friday, 8/17/2012, in the United States District Court of the Northern District of California located at the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building, Oakland, California, under presiding Judge Susan Illston.

On 8/7/2012, a dog owner contacted a Southern-California based Animal Rescue via email after what appeared to be a provoked incident that occurred three days prior within her gated front property, and involved Junior - her family's 2-year old dog, and her 9-year old niece. The rescue, a qualified 501(c)3 organization with a documented track record for pulling and successfully re-homing nearly 800 dogs from California shelters throughout California since 2006, contacted Tri-City Animal Control (Fremont) on the following morning and requested Junior be taken into their rescue under California's "The Hayden Act." Rescue was denied access to Junior citing that Junior had been "declared dangerous," despite the fact there were zero prior incidents involving Junior, and that Junior had not been given an administrative hearing, as allowed under law, prior to a "dangerous dog" declaration being made.

Junior obtained the legal representation of The Lexus Project "TLP" (www.thelexusproject.org) and local legal counsel, both that took the case Pro-Bono. Legal Counsel immediately contested the "City's" right to kill Junior; requested a "stay of execution" from 8/15/2012 to 8/17/2012, and formally requested a hearing to appeal the City's "dangerous dog declaration of Junior" and allow him to be taken into rescue. The City Attorney's office of the City of Fremont responded in writing that they denied TLP's request for a hearing, and they "... were not destroying the dog pursuant to Fremont's Municipal Code, but "...rather pursuant to the power to as the owner of the dog" and further denied the rescue right to take Junior into rescue. On 8/16/2012, Junior's legal counsel filed a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) and Federal Complaint against the City of Fremont, and on 8/17/2012, the matter was heard by Presiding Judge Susan Illston. Despite the fact that there was jurisdiction, merits for the case to be heard, and Federal and State laws that supported Plaintiff's request, Judge Susan Illston took immediate issue with the Plaintiff's "right" to insert themselves between the former owner, and the new owner, the City of Fremont.

Judge Susan Illston's statement during the Request for TRO hearing to the Plaintiff's counsel, in part, "SO IF I MOVED AND DIDN'T WANT TO TAKE MY DOG, YOU MEAN TO TELL ME I COULDN'T HAVE HIM KILLED?" is evidence of her disregard for Federal and State law; her complete lack of human compassion towards Junior or the specifics of his individual case; her thoughts on her "rights" to her own dog her personal opinion towards any dog which is considered "property", and, a "A Dog Owner's right to Ownership of their Property (Animal) and what a Dog Owner should be allowed to do with their property."

It is deeply concerning that the Judge would not hear the reasons for the request for the Temporary Restraining Order and then decide whether to issue a TRO or not. Instead, Judge Illston ruled that Plaintiff's had "no standing" because the City of Fremont now "owned" the dog. Her ruling also meant that she believed that the Co-Plaintiffs, RESCUE, had no legal right to question the intent of Junior's new owner's (the City of Fremont) "right" to kill a healthy, 2-year old dog and take him rescue, as is allowed under California State Law and The Hayden Act.

It is also deeply concerning that Federal Court Judge Susan Illston refused to hear the reasons behind the request for TRO and instead immediately denied the Request for the TRO - which asked for nothing more but to extend Junior's execution by a few weeks until the case was heard and the facts presented by both parties were considered.

It is our belief that every judge, whether they preside over a Small Claims, Municipal, Superior, State, Federal, or Supreme Court, has a duty to carefully consider all points carefully, review all applicable laws, put their own personal opinions aside, at least publically in a Court of Law, and hear, and rule, on the individual merits of each case before issuing a ruling, especially if the subject of the TRO and Complaint is a 2-year old dog with no prior incidents. If a Judge does not have enough information or knowledge of all applicable laws or case law at the time a Request for TRO is made, a Judge should grant the requesting parties a TRO, continue to research the matter or applicable laws, and allow the case to be heard.

Instead, a Federally-appointed judge demonstrated her personal-bias and opinion with regard to "property ownership"; disregarded the fact that the "property" was a 2-year old dog whose life was about to be ended 3 hours later; denied Plaintiff's request for a TRO to temporarily "stay" Junior's execution, and refused to hear the case. The Judge's ruling granted the City of Fremont "the right" to kill Junior because she personally supported the City's assertion that an owner of a dog should have the power to kill that dog, if, for no other reason, than because they are the owner of the dog.

Junior was denied any due process as allowed under law and declared dangerous. This was his first and only incident, it occurred at his home, and after he made the fatal mistake of acting to protect his 5-year old owner against what was seemingly a threat to the 5-year old boy. The 9-year old victim was treated for her injury immediately following the incident and back home a few hours later. The rescue was denied their right to take Junior into rescue as provided under The Hayden Act, and using Judge Illston's reasoning, perhaps we should all reconsider whether Michael Vick's actions, for which he was prosecuted and served jail time for, should have been excused. After all, he was the legal owner of his dogs.

This morning, Saturday, 8/18/2012, under the orders of Sgt. Howard Russel, Administrator of Tri City Animal Control, Animal Control Officer Lorenzo Talatala ended the life of Junior, a healthy, 2-year old dog.

Yesterday's court proceeding was a very sad day for voters in California who voted for The Hayden Act and put this law into place. It was also a particularly frightening day for the residents of Alameda County, California, should they ever find themselves in Judge Susan Illston's courtroom.

You may voice your opinions to the following and print/fax/or email to this to any media outlets:
California Governor Jerry Brown (916) 445-2841 Fax: (916) 558-3160
Thomas Hayden/Hayden Act: www.tomhayden.com, contacthayden@gmail.com
Senator Ellen Corbett (Fremont/Alameda County) (916) 651-4010 http://sd10.senate.ca.gov/contact
City Attorney/ Fremont Howard Levine (510) 284-4030, Fax (510) 284-4031, hlevine@fremont.gov
Deputy City Attorney Bronwen Lacey (510) 284-4030, Fax (510) 284-4031, blacey@fremont.gov
Chief Craig Stecklor, Police Chief (510) 790-6811, csteckler@fremont.gov
TriCity Animal Svcs. Sgt Howard Russel (510) 790-6630/6640, FAX (510) 790-6632, animalservices@fremont.gov
TriCity Animal Svcs. Lorenzo Talatala (510) 790-6630/6640, FAX (510) 790-6632, animalservices@fremont.gov

For more information or to schedule an interview:
About Junior's case, please contact us at: savejunior@gmail.com
About any of the other cases we are handling, please contact us at: thelexusproject@optonline.net

Save Junior the Akita!

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