Dan Mendonca, a Turlock resident, is petitioning and fighting to save his beloved Alaskan Malamute “Bolt” after the dog was sentenced to be euthanized by City of Turlock Animal Services. This ruling came forth after allegations from two women, McKenzie Leedom and Macie Gilstrap, were made stating that Bolt had bit both of them in the face.
On November 7th, Bolt was taken into Turlock Animal Services, which was followed by an investigation that found the alleged incidents had occurred.
“We (Turlock Police Department Animal Control) received notice of the first incident via fax from Emanuel Hospital,” stated Officer Mayra Lewis, spokesperson for the Turlock Police Department. “During this incident, Victim #1 [Gilstrap] told Animal Control Supervisor she was bit by a stray dog and was unable to provide specific details regarding the dog or dogs owner.” The incident was reported to the County Health Department, as required by State Law. The first incident was reported on September 30th, 2012.
On October 28th, Victim #2 (Leedom) was bit across her face by Bolt, Mendonca’s pet, at Mendonca’s home.
It was on November 6th that the AC Supervisor received a phone call from Leedom’s mother asking why her daughter’s incident had not been investigated.
“TPD did not have knowledge of this incident because it was mistakenly routed to the County instead of us,” stated Officer Lewis. “The Animal Control Supervisor obtained the report from the County, contacted Victim #2 (Leedom), and an investigation followed.”
Officer Lewis reported that through the course of the investigation, the Animal Control Supervisor found that Victim #1 (Gilstrap) and Victim #2 (Leedom) were possibly bit by the same dog. The Animal Control Supervisor then forwarded her investigation to Police Chief Robert Jackson, via Chain of Command.
Chief Jackson confirmed that the incident required a public hearing and the report was forward to City Manager Roy Wasden’s office. A public hearing was conducted on November 27th, 2012. A public hearing requires a Hearing Officer, who is not an employee of the Turlock Police Department, to take into account the police report, evidence presented by the Police Department Animal Control, the dog’s owner, victim(s) and witnesses, if any. Fire Chief Tim Lohman served as the Hearing Officer for the public hearing, and made a recommendation to the City Manager following guidelines of the Turlock Municipal Code.
City Manager Roy Wasden then reviewed Chief Lohman’s recommendation, on November 29th, and made the determination that the dog would need to be euthanized.
“Based upon the information that was received at the hearing, the City Manager made his final decision, finding the dog to be vicious and a public nuisance,” stated Ronald Reid, Assistant to the City Manager. According to Reid, the dog’s owner was made aware of civil remedies available to him under California Code of Civil Procedure Section 1094.5.
“These type of incidents are taken very seriously by the Turlock Police Department and other City Officials,” stated Officer Lewis. “Once an incident has been reported, there are time restrictions that we are required to abide by, according to the law.”
“The safety of this community is of primary concern when determining the outcome of these types of incidents,” explained Lewis.
Leedom, the second woman to be bit, shared her opinion on the outcome of the ruling for Bolt to be euthanized.
“The choice of Bolt being euthanized was decided by trained professionals who gathered all of the facts and observed both sides of the story,” she stated. “This is now out of my hands and the constant harassment on my character needs to stop. I didn’t make this decision, nor do I have the power to change anything.”
“From day one this has been in the owner’s control, and unfortunately he has made the decision to make this more difficult,” continued Leedom. “I have done nothing but tell the truth and report what happened and I have been harassed for doing what I believe was the right thing. I do not want this dog to have another chance to bite a third person, which could potentially be a child. I feel horrible for the owner and sympathize for how he must be feeling, but there’s a responsibility you have to take when owning an animal and you have to do what is right to protect the rest of society.”
Although the ruling was made that Bolt would be euthanized, Mendonca is working hard to fight the outcome in effort to save his pet.
“Bolt has always been a loving, huggable dog,” stated Judy Rodrigues, mother of Mendonca. “He is loved by many in Turlock and surrounding areas. Bolt has always been gentle with children. For the City of Turlock to say he is ‘vicious’ is ridiculous. They do not know Bolt.”
Rodrigues stated that after Animal Services picked up Bolt, the family contacted Lisa Moore, an Animal Behavioralist, from Top Dog Training to check Bolt for aggression/reactivity, however, Rodrigues stated that they were denied the opportunity to fix the animal’s behavior.
Rodrigues also stated that Bolt had reacted violently towards Leedom, as Leedom had tried hugging the dog on it’s bed while it was sleeping, and was merely trying to protect his territory out of feeling threatened. There is dispute, however, as to whether or not Leedom was in fact interacting with the dog leading up to the incident.
“Bolt does not deserve what is happening to him,” continued Rodrigues. “We have done what was asked by the City of Turlock – bought a kennel, muzzles, and my son moved out of Turlock. All we want to do is free Bolt.”
Mendonca started an online petition in efforts to save Bolt, which has received 1,356 signatures as of Wednesday, December 5th. He has also hired a lawyer to appeal the decision.
To view the petition, visit www.thepetitionsite.com/204/437/473/free-bolt/.