Visalia woman fighting to save pet from euthanization after being deemed 'viscous'

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A Visalia pet owner is suing the city of Visalia to keep her dog Armani alive after a neighbor said the pit bull mix knocked him down and bit one of his small dogs. (KFSN)

A Visalia woman is fighting to save her dog's life. The city says he's a vicious threat, but she says he's been unfairly labeled and now she's in a race against time to get him back.

To keep her dog alive, owner Kimberly Stokes has filed a civil suit against the city of Visalia. She claims he's not dangerous, and says she's willing to get him proper training if he's released.

Stokes hasn't been able to pet her dog Armani in three-and-a-half months. Instead, she visits him from a distance at the Visalia Animal Care Center where he's being held and could possibly be put down.

"This is really hard," she said. "Very, very hard on me."

On the morning of January 31, two of Kimberly's dogs, including Armani, got out of her backyard because her fence was broken. Kimberly wasn't awake at the time, but her neighbor was just getting ready to bring his dogs for a walk when he says Kimberly's larger dog, Armani, knocked him down and bit one of his small dogs.

He believes Kimberly's other dog, Mademoiselle, bit his other dog during the scuffle. An animal control officer responded, took reports, and impounded both of Kimberly's dogs which he described as pit bulls. But Kimberly says they're mixed breed.

"Our ordinance is very clear, if an animal harms, attacks, injures, or bites another animal or another person, then that animal's deemed vicious and we have a process whereby the owner can go through and appeal that," Mario Cifuentez with Visalia Animal Services explained.

Kimberly did appeal and an administrative hearing was held in mid-February. The hearing officer returned Mademoiselle to Kimberly on probation, but he sided with the city on Armani, deeming him vicious and ordering him to be put down within 10 days.

Kimberly, who admits it was her fault her dogs got out, also maintains they're not dangerous and, based on the vet bill she says she paid, she doesn't believe her neighbor's dogs were bit.

That's why she's hired an attorney and filed a writ of mandate with the courts. A judge will decide if the city followed the right steps during the vicious dog process. If they didn't, Kimberly could get another hearing.

"If it was a different type of breed of a dog, a smaller dog, I don't think that this would have even gotten to this point," she argued.

"She's right, the punishment does not fit the crime, so I'm taking this opportunity to now speak for the dogs," Carrie Raven with Raven's Rescue Bully Breed Sanctuary argued. "I will help them as much as I can and rehabilitate them, but now I'm going to speak for them."

While Kimberly has her defenders, we spoke with one neighbor who says she's spoken to animal control several times about Kimberly's dogs. She believes they are dangerous because she saw them fight each other.

"The two males had latched down on each other and had fought," neighbor Janice Ede said. "After one of our neighbors threw over a can of pepper spray and me shooting a hose of water at them, they still didn't release."

Kimberly says this did happen, but it was because Mademoiselle was in heat. And after getting her fixed, she says nothing like it happened again.

The next writ of mandate hearing is scheduled for May 18th. Between now and then, Kimberly is hoping to have the Fresno Bully Rescue and another trainer evaluate Armani.
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