Judge rules S.F., ex-owner to split costs of Charlie the dog’s care 

click to enlarge See how much has been spent on Charlie the Dog below the article. - COURTESY PHOTO
  • Courtesy Photo
  • See how much has been spent on Charlie the Dog below the article.

The more than $9,000 bill to house and care for the American Staffordshire terrier that attacked a U.S. Park Police horse last summer will be split between the dog’s former owner and San Francisco.

On Monday, U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins said the costs should be split between David Gizzarelli and San Francisco, considering that Gizzarelli has no means of paying — despite raising roughly $17,000 through online contributions to help save Charlie the dog.

Charlie has been in Animal Care and Control custody since August, when he was deemed “vicious and dangerous” by the Police Department. The cost for housing him and providing veterinary care for an injury he received prior to August totaled $9,808 as of Monday’s hearing.

But Gizzarelli’s attorney argued that his client has no means to pay the costs, saying much of the donation money went to attorney fees, paying for the horse’s vet bills and “other living expenses.”

“My client is on social welfare, living on $422 a month and sleeping out of his car,” Orestes Cross said during the hearing Monday. “He fought the fight because he cares about his dog.”

Rebecca Katz, director of Animal Care and Control, said the ruling was disappointing.

“I don’t believe those who contributed expected that money to go toward personal expenses,” Katz said. “The original settlement said these costs would be split, but [Gizzarelli] would still be responsible for the $3,600” in Animal Care and Control bills incurred before the settlement.

The hearing and the ruling were part of a settlement deal reached in January that spared Charlie’s life so long as Gizzarelli gave up custody and agreed to have a hearing to discuss payment for Charlie’s care.

Heavily redacted documents prohibited The San Francisco Examiner from viewing Gizzarelli’s monetary transactions related to the donation cash. Gizzarelli had garnered support using social media sites such as Facebook, fundrazr.com and causes.com. Additionally, he solicited funds to help pay for his legal battle. Gizzarelli also sold mugs, T-shirts and aprons to help gain support. And he still maintains the Facebook page.

Questions during Monday’s hearing revolved around the amount of legal fees Gizzarelli paid to two attorneys, along with some $3,000 for “food, transportation and housing,” Gizzarelli’s attorney told the judge.

Since the settlement, Charlie has been in foster care. According to Katz, he needs several more months of training before he can be considered for adoption or even placed in a sanctuary. She said he has a lot of work ahead of him.

Gizzarelli also potentially faced federal assault charges as a result of the attack on the police horse, but according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, he no longer faces those charges.


Costs for Charlie

  • $185: UC Davis behavioral evaluation
  • $370: Vet bills, incurred from old injury
  • $73.90: Vet clinic, medication
  • $4,029.85: Rehabilitation, boarding, care (January through April 10)
  • $400: Training
  • $3,600: City costs prior to settlement
  • $1,150: Rehabilitation, boarding, care (April 11 through April 22)

Source: U.S. District Court documents

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