Visalia man planning to sue city after pet dies in animal control custody

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After Jeff Barnes' pit bull got into a fight with a cat, Visalia Animal Control took Cuda into custody. Barnes claims his dog looked hot in the back of the truck, and he was later told Cuda died from a heat-related illness. (KFSN)

A South Valley man says he is ready to sue the City of Visalia after his dog allegedly attacked a cat and then died in animal control custody.

"All I want is justice for my dog," owner Jeff Barnes exclaimed.

Barnes can never cuddle Cuda again. On the pit bull's first birthday, he and Barnes' two other dogs got out of his yard. Animal Control officers say the dogs attacked a cat that had to be euthanized because of its injuries.

Barnes grabbed two of his dogs, but an officer rounded up Cuda. A little while later, he came for the other two and by then, Barnes says Cuda already looked hot.

"He gets up excited to see me. I pet him. He licks my hand. I say, 'Sir, he looks a little hot,'" he said. "There's drool coming out of his mouth."

About an hour later, he got a call saying his dog was near death from heat illness. Barnes says his dogs are well-trained and rarely go outside, but he takes responsibility for what happened to the neighbor's cat.

He just thinks Cuda should've been better protected.

"Maybe he would've had repercussions from biting the cat. That's fine, but he could've lived to find that out," he said.

Animal Control officers say all three dogs were deemed vicious as soon as they were identified as the cat's attackers. They say their trucks have adequate cooling to keep animals safe even in the hottest weather.

"The truck has a water cooler - like an evaporative cooler - on top, and it also has dual exhaust fans," Mario Cifuentez with Visalia Animal Control said. "My officer states both of those were on from the moment he started being dispatched for calls."

Barnes thinks only one of the fans was on when he saw Cuda. Protesters joined him outside Visalia's Animal Control office Sunday, demanding justice for the dog.

And like a couple of them, he and his girlfriend plan to file a lawsuit against the city for how they handled the aftermath of a pit bull attack.

"Maybe it'll make them look into these trucks and how their fans work and if it's adequately cooled," Carrie Dileo said.

Barnes' other two dogs are at Animal Control awaiting a vicious-dog hearing.
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