An incident in California involving a baby sea lion and a dog owned by the family of former U.S. Rep Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona is being treated a really sad accident, not a crime. And it is really sad, no matter what it is. The Bulldog mix killed the sea lion in Laguna Beach earlier this week. He got away from Giffords’ step-daughter during a walk.
Some online commenters are calling for the dog to be killed. But it looks like authorities won’t pursue that or charges against the family of Giffords, who was wounded in a Tucson shooting in 2011.
The attack occurred Monday on Goff Island Beach. The dog bolted, ripping the leash from Giffords’ step-daughter’s hand, and ran toward a baby sea lion. A video shows the step-daughter and two women, distraught, trying in vain to make the dog release the pup.
Then former astronaut Mark Kelly — Giffords’ husband — shows up and yanks on the collar of his dog until he releases the pup. The pup later died. [Editor’s Note: The video of this unfortunate incident is over here. We didn’t want to embed it because it is graphic and painful to watch. But if you want to see it, have at.]
Police did not cite the owner “because it was legal for her to have the dog on the beach this time of year, and she did have it leashed,” said Laguna Beach Police Capt. Jason Kravetz, according to the Los Angeles Times. “It was so strong that it pulled free of her when it saw the (sea lion).”
While it is illegal for an owner “to encourage” a dog to attack marine life, “that wasn’t the case in this situation,” he said.
While it’s a tragic situation, many Internet commenters have come down heavy against the dog — labeling him “vicious” and demanding he be euthanized. They’ve also come down on owner Mark Kelly. Here’s one such comment on the Washington Post:
“The way Mark Kelly’s Bulldog mercilessly killed the baby sea lion, he should be held responsible for the brutal killing, fined for the death of a baby sea lion, and his dog need[s] to be silenced to avoid any other such brutal killing. Being a celebrity, he cannot be allowed to go FREE.”
Fortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Laguna Beach police do not plan to press charges, because investigators determined the owner was not at fault, according to the AP. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration does not expect to act either. According to spokesman Jim Milbury, “We will have to wait for all the facts to come in, but it appears to be an unfortunate accident.”
PETA also released a statement, saying it was a “regrettable and traumatic incident for the animals and the people involved,” but “they should not punish the dog.”
After the attack, Kelly brought the dog back to the home where the family was staying “and crated it in the basement before meeting with police,” according to the Times.
As for the dog being vicious, as many are making him out to be, that view is not holding up. Investigators checked with authorities in Texas, where the dog lives with his family, and “records did not show any prior attacks or even any nuisance calls because of the dog.” If there had been a history of aggression, authorities say they could have taken action against the dog.
As PETA said in the statement, “chasing, hunting or attacking animals like cats and squirrels comes naturally to some dogs.”
Dogster readers: How should this story end?