Things are looking up for Charlie.
The 22-month pitbull was scheduled for “destruction” by the City of San Francisco after attacking a police horse last year at Crissy Field. The dog’s fate hung in the balance Friday as a temporary restraining order barring the city from killing Charlie was about to expire.
City attorneys wanted U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer to clear the way for Charlie’s death sentence, calling it more humane than continuing to keep the canine confined.
But after seven hours of tense negotiations that lasted into Thursday night, the city agreed to a deal that spares Charlie’s life on the condition his owner, San Francisco resident David Gizzarelli, pays for the animal’s boarding at a suitable sanctuary.
Gizzarelli’s lawyer reported the settlement to Breyer at Friday’s hearing. The matter had been set for arguments on a motion for a preliminary injunction
“Charlie is not going to be killed,” Gizzarelli’s lawyer John Mounier Jr. pronounced after the hearing. Both sides promised more details once the papers were signed and the settlement was official.
Charlie got into trouble in August when he was playing off-leash in a designated area of Crissy Field. He spotted a horse carrying a park police officer and took off in a sprint.
According to court records, Charlie bit the horse, causing the animal to rear up and throw the officer to the ground, knocking the man unconscious.
Charlie then chased the horse for nearly two miles and continued to attack causing bleeding gashes to the horse’s legs, thighs and stomach.
At a subsequent hearing, Charlie was designated a vicious dog and ordered to be humanely put down.
Gizzarelli, who adopted Charlie as a puppy in March 2011, sued city officials in state court claiming his constitutional rights were violated when the city seized Charlie and issued a kill order without providing adequate notice or due process.
After the state claim was denied and with an appeal pending, Gizzarelli filed a federal complaint and sought a court order blocking the city from carrying out Charlie’s execution.
The San Francisco City Attorney’s Office argued the government possessed authority to regulate dangerous dogs and asked Breyer not to interfere with the planned execution.
The case drew massive attention as a result of media coverage and an online “Save Charlie” campaign, which gained nearly 10,000 followers on Facebook.
Breyer said the matter generated as much public interest as any case of his judicial career and that emotional letters pleading for Charlie’s life poured into chambers from around the world.
“I’m really pleased there has been a resolution,” Breyer said, praising the work of U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins who led settlement talks.
“The credit goes to Judge Cousins,” he said. “But for his, no pun intended, doggedness, it would not have been resolved.”