Judge recuses self, sides tell their story of fatal dog fight | TheUnion.com

Judge recuses self, sides tell their story of fatal dog fight

A "menacing dog" hearing for a pit bull mix that reportedly attacked and killed another dog and injured its owner, Jeannie Wood, has been postponed until Thursday.

The petition filed by Nevada County Animal Control to determine if the dog is potentially dangerous or vicious was set to be heard Monday in Nevada County Superior Court by Judge Thomas Anderson. But because Wood works for the court, Anderson recused himself due to the potential conflict of interest. The case will now be heard by Court Commissioner Jason LaChance.

If the dog is, in fact, determined to be potentially dangerous, it would have to be kept indoors or in a securely fenced yard. A potentially dangerous animal may be off the owner's premises only if it is restrained by a substantial leash and muzzled, and must wear an orange collar. The owner must also carry $100,000 liability insurance on the dog.

According to Wood, she was walking near her home on Red Dog Road on Feb. 17 when two dogs she described as pit bulls ran from a neighbor's yard and attacked Scooter, her Chihuahua/pug mix.

"I was across the street," she said. "The dogs came charging down. I told them to go home but they just kept coming. The next thing you know, (the dog) had Scooter in his mouth. … It was a frenzy."

While she was breaking up the fight, one of the large dogs bit her hand, Wood said, resulting in puncture wounds and a broken finger.

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Wood rushed Scooter to a veterinarian for treatment, but he did not survive. She estimates the cost of the medical bills will be around $10,000.

Brittany Sanchez, who owns Blueberry Pie — the pit bull mix that will be on trial — does not dispute that Pie killed Scooter.

But Sanchez and Chris Wardle, who also lives on the property, intend to argue that Pie was provoked into fighting by the smaller dog.

Scooter, they said, was "aggressive, unstable and unsocialized" and would react aggressively when it saw unfamiliar dogs.

Sanchez works at a veterinary hospital and said she specializes in training dogs not to fight. She said she often uses Pie and the other dog involved, Darla, as training tools.

"I'm heart-broken this happened," Sanchez said. "I work a lot with (dog owners) on fear and aggression issues, to be a good pack leader."

And, she insisted, "There's no aggression allowed in my pack."

Wardle and Sanchez said they have been neighbors with Wood for years, and often saw her walking Scooter. Neither saw the fight take place.

"They are very social," Sanchez said of her dogs. "They went to greet (Wood's) dog. Her dog challenged my dogs."

"She brought the fight to our property," Wardle said.

And, according to Wardle, Wood was projecting "fear energy," which exacerbated the situation.

"You can't project scared energy," he said. "That's going to cause a problem. … It was lack of knowledge on her part, but it's a shame."

Wood disputes their account, saying Sanchez's dogs had charged her and other neighbors in the past but had always been called back.

"Those dogs are aggressive," she said. "I cannot believe (Sanchez) cannot take responsibility."

Contact reporter Liz Kellar at 530-477-4236 or by email at lizk@theunion.com.

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