Fatal dogfight in San Francisco unleashes outcry 

click to enlarge Kim Ferguson’s dog, Dijon, was on a leash when it was mauled by a bigger dog at Huntington Park. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy photo
  • Kim Ferguson’s dog, Dijon, was on a leash when it was mauled by a bigger dog at Huntington Park.

A vicious dog mauling in a Nob Hill park has put the spotlight on The City’s rarely enforced leash laws.

On the evening of Feb. 26, Kim Ferguson, 45, took her 12-pound poodle, Dijon, for one of his three daily walks to Huntington Park in Nob Hill. The 12-year-old pooch was led on a leash to the outer area of the park because, Ferguson said, he was much smaller than the other dogs.

A much larger mixed-breed dog — estimated at 60 pounds — then raced toward Ferguson and Dijon, Ferguson said. The dog grabbed Dijon in its mouth and began shaking him like a rag doll, she said. Ferguson became entangled in Dijon’s leash, knocking her to the ground.

The ordeal was over in mere minutes — but Dijon was left lying lifeless next to Ferguson.

“It was horrible,” she said. “We were just walking like we always do.”

The owner of the larger dog left after the attack, Ferguson said. Officer John Denny of Animal Care and Control said it’s possible that as Ferguson rushed off to the vet, the other owner didn’t know what to do.

Denny said he hopes the owner will come forward.

“This is a tragic accident,” Denny said. “This is not an eye-for-an-eye thing; we have civil remedies of dealing with it.”

He said it’s extremely rare for a dog to be put down after one such attack. Instead, Denny would recommend muzzling the pooch, requiring a leash at all times and training courses.

Jennifer Scarlett, co-president of the San Francisco SPCA, said prey drives — in which a larger dog attacks a smaller dog — are hard to correct, but it’s the owner’s responsibility to control his or her animal.

“You are obligated to keep your dog under control, especially if there is a bite history,” she said. “Most dogs are great at giving signals, and humans are great at ignoring signals.”

Scarlett said violence can be avoided by simply keeping larger dogs on leashes when smaller dogs are around.

Elsewhere in The City, off-leash dogs have attacked other pooches.

In January, an unneutered pit bull killed a Yorkshire terrier in front of its owner while off-leash. That dog was euthanized after being deemed vicious and dangerous because its owner, while lying on top of the animal, could not stop the attack, Denny said.

Dogs commonly are seen off-leash in many of San Francisco’s 225 parks, yet only 28 have designated play areas. The 1-acre Huntington Park, at California and Taylor streets, is not one of those locations.

On the Nob Hill Association’s website, the group tries to remind parkgoers that there is no dog play area in the small playing field.

“The City of San Francisco has designated Huntington Park as a leash-only park due to its small size and intensive use.  Dogs on-leash are welcome in the Park,” the website states.

Denny said Animal Care and Control does not have the staffing to regularly patrol and cite owners for being off-leash in nondesignated areas.

Ferguson said she just hopes her situation never repeats.

“Dogs without leashes need to be in another park,” she said. “There’s no one out patrolling it. I just want everyone to be aware, especially for those in the park who keep their dogs on a leash.”

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

Pit bull dies in clash with Pacifica cop


Pacifica cops fatally shot a pit bull Tuesday for the second time in seven months.

In the latest incident, the pit bull stormed through an open door of a home on Adobe Drive and attacked a corgi, a smaller dog, about 9:10 a.m., Pacifica police Chief James Tasa said. A cop called to the home fired one shot at the pit bull after it aggressively came within 4 feet of the officer, Tasa said.

The corgi survived the attack, authorities said.

Police said a neighbor owned both the pit bull and a husky that had gotten loose.

On Aug. 11, 2011, a pit bull attacked and killed its owner, a 32-year-old pregnant woman, in an incident that stunned the community.

Earlier this year, three survivors of star NFL quarterback Michael Vick’s dogfighting ring made an appearance at a Pacifica store as part of an effort by pit bull advocates to quash unfair stereotypes about the dogs.

— Mike Aldax

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