In May, L.A. County Animal Control took away the family's 1-and-a-half-year-old shepherd mix "Jojo" after he bit two neighborhood children in the family's Lancaster trailer park. The family says he is not vicious.
Several weeks ago the judge issued a temporary restraining order barring the county from destroying Jojo. Thursday he said after going through all the evidence he came to the conclusion: "This is not a nice dog--this is a vicious dog," he said. The county acted appropriately, he said.
The county says Jojo escaped his property and bit one child so severely it nearly severed part of his hand. The family says the boy purposely threw rocks at the dog and stuck his hands through the fence.
"An 8-year-old kid said that my dog jumped the fence, but I know my dog didn't jump the fence, I know that kid teased my dog, teased my dog and teased my dog," said Denise Wheeler, the dog's owner. "I mean, I feel bad that the kid got bit, but it's not fair that my dog has to die. Why can't he go to a rescue or something?"
The family brought animal behavior specialists into court.
"If the kid positioned his finger through the fence, any dog, a very passive golden retriever or any other dog who had a non-violent temperament and who was cumulatively provoked over time could have inflicted an injury like that," said one animal expert Dr. Richard Polsky.
"But if the dog was provoked, then it can't be determined to be vicious," said attorney Talitha Wegner.
The family's attorney says the dog is now in a county shelter. And she is trying other options in an effort to spare the dog's life.
"There is no danger to the public interest here. The dog is contained, it can be contained in a sanctuary, as we provided to the judge. He didn't seem to be interested in any of those," said Wegner.
The judge's order takes effect Friday at 4:30 p.m. At that time Jojo could be euthanized. Wegner says she will appeal, but she admits that 99 percent of the time those appeals are denied.