ANIMAL WATCH-LA Superior Court Judge Carlos Vazquez issued a strong admonition on March 14 to the attorney representing Los Angeles art gallery owner Rosamund Felsen, who was charged with one criminal count of owning a “vicious dog” after her Staffordshire Terrier (Pit Bull-type dog) killed a family's beloved Yorkshire terrier and seriously injured two men in three separate attacks.
All of this occurred while Felsen was walking her dog, Bobby, in the posh Glenwood North community of Glendale, CA, where she recently moved.
Judge Vazquez extended his February 23 order that the pit bull may not be taken off Felsen's property without a muzzle and set a continuance of the arraignment and plea hearing for May 14. He advised Attorney Lyle Middleton that this delay would enable Felsen to comply with the City Attorney's request that the dog complete training to stop any further attacks. Attorney Middleton stated that Ms. Felsen would enter a plea of “not guilty.”
Two of the victims of attacks by Bobby in 2017 and 2018 were present, including the owners of the tiny Yorkie who was killed in front of their two-year-old child, while his pregnant mother tried to save their pet. Witnesses confirmed that Ms. Felsen quickly left with Bobby, but she was identified from a neighbor’s surveillance camera footage. The father then posted the incident on Next Door, asking for assistance in locating the woman and her dog.
The other victim present at the hearing was a photographer who had been invited to join Ms. Felsen and her dog on a morning walk to discuss the opening of her new Los Angeles gallery. He reported earlier, “When her pit bull, Bobby, first lunged at me, Ms. Felsen assured me it was a friendly gesture because ‘he liked me’.” But after walking a few blocks, the dog suddenly launched a savage attack on him, ripping the flesh on his leg and rib-cage area and attempting to reach his neck and face. He was knocked to the ground, bleeding profusely, he said. According to his report, Ms. Felsen commented, "I'm sorry this happened," and left.
Felsen appeared personally in court for the first arraignment date on January 23, 2019, and was not represented by counsel. A victim who attended said she "signed away her right to an attorney." However, the judge advised her of the seriousness of the charge against her and the City Attorney emphasized an expectation of conviction and the hearing was continued.
At that time, Senior Assistant City Attorney Yvette Neukian explained that the decision to file a formal complaint was made by Glendale City Attorney Michael Garcia, after receiving records of the three attacks from Pasadena Humane Society, LA County Public Health, and the Glendale Police Department.
Neukian indicated that the City Attorney had also received numerous fearful communications from residents claiming the dog was walked daily near their homes or in nearby Brand Park by a woman who had demonstrated she could not control him.
Added to that concern was the fact that both human victims, as well as the owners of the Yorkshire terrier, claim that after each incident Ms. Felsen fled with her dog without offering assistance. In two instances (fatally mauling the Yorkie and the first human attack, which resulted in severe wounds to a jogger) the victims said Ms. Felsen did not identify herself, and they had to ask neighbors for help in contacting her.
JUDGE FOCUSED ON PUBLIC SAFETY
Glendale Municipal Code Sec. 6.08.045(D) reads, “If a vicious dog bites a human or animal, the owner or keeper will be guilty of a misdemeanor if the owner or keeper knows or should have known that his or her dog is vicious.” A vicious dog is defined under GMC Sec. 6.08.045(A) as “any dog which: (1) bites or attempts to bite any human or animal without reasonable provocation and endangers the health and safety of any person.”
Neukian told the court that the City Attorney's office has not received any report of Ms. Felsen walking Bobby in the area without a muzzle since the court order, and she may introduce a conditional plea at the May hearing.
Judge Vazquez emphasized that public safety is his immediate concern. He mandated a continuation of the order that the dog not be taken outside of Ms. Felsen's property without a muzzle because, based upon his history, the dog poses a public safety risk.
"That is exactly what we are trying to avoid," Judge Vazquez emphasized. "We want no one else being injured."
CALIFORNIA PIT BULL-ATTACK DEATHS IN 2019
National Pit Bull Victim Awareness (Deaths/Attacks on map and searchable database.)
(Phyllis M. Daugherty is a contributor to CityWatch and a former LA City employee. She is currently employed by the U.S. Postal Service.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.