Ospina dog attack: I had to fend off Labrador by myself

By KELLY NIX

Published: August 10, 2007

A LABRADOR retriever that fatally mauled a local TV anchor’s dog in front of the Pacific Grove post office will remain quarantined until the outcome of a public hearing at city hall next week — a hearing to determine if the “vicious” dog will be destroyed.

KION and KCBA anchor Olga Ospina was walking her Maltese, Lulu, on a leash July 25 when an 8-year-old black Lab named Samson leapt from a parked car and attacked the smaller dog. Lulu died later from her injuries.

Samson, owned by Donna Marie Bazan of Rancho Palos Verdes, is being held at the SPCA of Monterey County’s facility off of Highway 68.

Samson, who is about 60 pounds, was a good pet with no history of aggression prior to the July 25 attack, Elizabeth Conti-Yeo, P.G.’s animal control officer, said Bazan told her.

And a check with Los Angeles Animal Control showed no record of Samson having ever attacked any other dog or person in that jurisdiction, Conti-Yeo said.

When Conti-Yeo met with Samson for the two days he was in the city’s custody, the dog didn’t show any aggressive behavior toward her, either.

“When I had him in our shelter,” Conti-Yeo said, “he was OK. He was a little frightened because of the elements.”

Conti-Yeo said Bazan has been in regular contact with her to find out how Samson is doing.
Meanwhile, Ospina said friends, family and complete strangers who read last week’s Pine Cone article about the attack have been extremely supportive.

“I can’t tell you how many calls, emails, cards, and just people coming up to me — people I’ve never met before — offering their condolences and expressing their shock at what happened,” Ospina said. “It’s been so nice to feel so much love and support from the community.”

Ospina recounted details of the attack, which she said required her to fend off the Lab herself. She said a man sitting in the car with Samson, whom she identified as Bazan’s father, did nothing as the attack took place.

The man “just sat in the car and talked on his cell phone as I screamed for help,” she said. “My screams were loud and persistent. So much so that a person in a building across the street heard me and called the police. I could hear people around me yelling, ‘Who’s dog is this?”’

Ospina said she confronted the man later that day.

“I saw him at the police station,” she said. “He blatantly told me to my face he was on a conference call for work.”

Ospina said Lulu underwent emergency surgery after the attack and held on for three days at Santa Cruz Veterinary Hospital before she died. “Lulu was a happy, playful, affectionate little girl, so full of energy, whose only mission in life was to love everyone,” Ospina said.
 

Hearing set

After Pacific Grove Police Chief Darius Engles last week deemed Samson vicious, city manager Jim Colangelo scheduled a hearing for Aug. 16, at which Carmelita Garcia, a P.G. resident appointed as the hearing officer, will decide whether or not the dog should be euthanized.

At the hearing, possibly the first of its kind in the city, Bazan will be allowed to speak on behalf of Samson.

“The owner of the dog can argue the police chief is wrong,” Colangelo said Wednesday, “and the chief can state the evidence that brought him to that conclusion.”

But neither Bazan, nor Ospina, who returned to anchoring the news Monday for the first time since the traumatic incident, will be required to make a statement at the hearing, he said.

Garcia could decide Samson’s fate the same day of the hearing.

“It’s possible she could take it under advisement and come back with a decision later on,” Colangelo said.
In making her decision, Garcia may determine the dog is not vicious, vicious and “subject to abatement,” or vicious and releasable.

If the Lab is determined to be vicious and ordered destroyed, or if it’s determined the dog is vicious but can nevertheless be released, Bazan will be required to pay all the costs associated with the hearing and boarding the dog at the SPCA, according to the city’s municipal code. The SPCA charges a $30 impound fee and $15 per day in boarding costs, Colangelo said.

Since Bazan lives in Southern California, it’s possible Samson will be released back to her with the condition the dog doesn’t return to P.G. Another dog in the car with the Labrador also sprang from an open window but didn’t exhibit behavior consistent with a vicious dog and was released to its owner, Colangelo said.

Bazan could not be reached for comment.

Definition of a vicious dog

Engles said he used the Pacific Grove city code as a basis to determine the Labrador is vicious.

“Any dog who exhibits a certain behavior can be deemed to be vicious,” Engles said.

The city code lists a number of criteria in determining whether a dog is vicious, including, “an attack on another animal which occurs on property other than that of the owner of the attacking dog,” and “an attack which results in property damage or in an injury to a person when such a person is conducting himself or herself peacefully and lawfully.”

Labrador retrievers, one of the most popular breeds in the United States, are generally thought of as energetic but good-natured dogs.

According to the American Kennel Club, an ideal Lab should possess a “kindly, outgoing, tractable nature.”
The hearing will be Aug. 16 at 4 p.m. in the city manager’s conference room at Pacific Grove City Hall, 300 Forest Ave.