There are a few ways to measure how much the people of Monterey County love their pets. The Visit Carmel website calls its webpage offering dog-friendly travel tips (“more than 25 dog-friendly hotels and inns”) “Dog Heaven on Earth.” The annual Monterey County Gives! campaign just wrapped, and while totals are still being counted, for the second year in a row, Peace of Mind Dog Rescue received the most in donations, out of 163 participating nonprofits, with $233,339. When the Monterey County Board of Supervisors discussed supporting mobile spay-neuter clinics at a Jan. 7 meeting, so many people wanted to speak that they signed up in advance and the public comment period lasted for over an hour. Many speakers talked about their own commitment to animal rescue. One speaker from Soledad said, “Since 2014, personally I have rescued 462 animals, all by myself, not with an agency, not with anyone.”
So what happens in a dog-loving community when a pair of dogs go on the attack? We found out the day after Christmas, when three separate dog-walkers in Seaside found themselves face-to-face with a pair of unleashed shepherd-husky mixes that they describe as approaching unprovoked, and lashing out at smaller dogs.
“They just trotted up and began biting my dog, without any posturing or growling or sniffing,” says Kera Panni (a former Weekly staffer). “My friend led the defense. She started screaming and kicking the dogs, and after what felt like a very long 60 seconds, they turned around and trotted away.
“There was a moment I thought I was going to see my dog killed right in front of me.” (Mojo, a year-and-a-half-old Labradoodle, is recovering from bite wounds that were stapled and bandaged.)
The same day, David Woodman was walking his 5-year-old pitbull mix, Nylie, and 6-month-old terrier mix, Jasper, when the same pair of dogs attacked; Jasper died from his injuries. Seaside police located the two dogs, which are currently on a police hold at the SPCA for Monterey County pending the outcome of Seaside PD’s investigation. “Historically, people usually surrender their dogs,” Deputy Police Chief Judy Veloz says. “If they don’t, they’re looking at a large fine and court dates.” And those court proceedings might still result in a judge ordering the dogs to be put down.
Woodman says he views the dogs as victims, too: “These were violent dogs, and that started with the owners.”
In this case, the SPCA is just providing shelter – Seaside only has an outdoor kennel, not suitable for quarantining animals for any lengthy period of time.
The SPCA has in the past offered a $10 class called “Dog Park Peril” about how to handle dog fights, but “since so many people are concerned right now,” spokesperson Beth Brookhouser says, they are offering the next session at no charge, 6-7pm on Tuesday, Jan. 14.
I see off-leash dogs, most of them tiny, wandering around Seaside all the time. Even those little dogs are in violation of the city’s existing off-leash ordinance. It all seems perfectly cute until someone gets hurt, and neighbors started weighing in on the social media site Nextdoor after Jasper was killed. One person posted that since she got injured defending her dogs in a fight, she carries pepper spray. Another wrote, “This scares me so much as I am in a wheelchair and have a new puppy. It feels vulnerable around here.”
“I think the city should take a closer look at community safety when it comes to loose dogs, because I want to feel comfortable sending my child out to take my dog on a walk, and after this I would be very worried about doing that,” Panni says.
Woodman is joining his friend Franco Pacheco – son of Seaside City Councilmember Dave Pacheco – on Thursday, Jan. 9 at Seaside City Council to ask for updates to the city’s ordinance on vicious dogs.
“We want this to be about accountability and education,” Woodman says. “This could’ve been avoided if these dog owners had been more responsible. We want to make sure this isn’t something where an annoyed neighbor can get someone’s dog taken away. We want people to be responsible dog owners and we want people to be safe.”