Yesterday the San Francisco Police Department released the results of an investigation into an August, 6, 2012 attack by a dog on a U.S. Park Police Department officer and his horse near Crissy field in the Presidio.
The SFPD’s Vicious and Dangerous Animal Unit conducted the hearing and along with the US Park Police they presented evidence about the incident, in which it is alleged that an American Staffordshire Terrier was off its leash in an area where it is OK for dogs to be off leash, as long as the animal obeys voice commands or can otherwise be controlled by the owner.
Investigators say the dog saw the U.S. Park Police mounted team and ran toward them from about 200 feet away. When the dog reached them, it leapt up and bit an officer on his leg and the officer ordered the owner to take control of his dog but the owner failed to do this and the dog proceeded to attack the horse, biting the horse on the abdomen and then locking its jaws onto the horse’s leg.
The horse then fell over and threw the officer, who landed on the ground and was knocked unconscious. The horse then ran back to its stable but the doors were closed and the pursuing dog attacked the horse a second time, inflicting additional injuries. The horse ran further again but was attacked a third time by the dog.
The horse managed to get away and ran another half a mile to the area of Armistead Road and Ramsel Court with the dog still attacking it. At this point a U.S. Park Police motorcycle officer caught up to them and intervened, ending the attack.
Investigators say that by the time it was all over the horse sustained 13 bites, with serious wounds to its legs, hindquarters, chest and abdominal areas. It survived the attack and was stabled for more than 20 days before being returned to limited service.
The officer’s riding boot prevented injury from the dog’s bite, but he did sustain a serious injury when he was thrown from the horse. The officer has since returned to duty.
Police say they took into consideration the circumstances of the case, the willingness and ability of the dog’s owner to take responsibility for the animal and the health, safety and welfare of the community. It was determined that the dog exhibited an extremely high degree of “prey drive,” demonstrated by its extensive pursuit and multiple attacks on the horse. They concluded that the dog was not reacting out of fear because the location of the horse’s wounds were not consistent with injuries that would be caused by a fearful dog, which typically bite at the hooves and ankles.
They further concluded that the pursuit and bites to the horse’s torso are indicative of a desire to seriously injure or kill, therefore the hearing officer decided that the dog was a “vicious and dangerous animal,” so there was no alternative but to order the animal be killed.
Police say the Vicious and Dangerous Animal Unit receives an average of 450 dog bite reports per year. Of those, they uphold approximately 120 “vicious and dangerous dog” hearings, and in about 5 percent of those hearings the dogs are eventually ordered to be euthanized.