At Dogster, we follow stories about dog-bite cases in which animal control agencies exact punishments that far exceed the unfortunate incident, particularly when dogs get punished for a first offense that’s clearly an exception to their normal behavior. We ask so much of our dogs when we expect them to conform to our increasingly complex social norms, boundaries, and laws. It is, of course, absolutely necessary that we ensure our dogs behave well in public, but when they make mistakes — particularly if they don’t cause serious damage — we believe dog as well as owner should be given at least one chance to correct the undesired behavior.
All too often, government agencies mete out severe punishments for first offenses to dog owners with little means and even less social standing. Dogster finds this practice offensive, unfair, and abusive. We thought so in the cases of Charlie and Lennox — Lennox did nothing violent, he just looked like a Pit Bull — and we certainly think so in the case of Sandi York, a Sacramento senior, and her beloved companion Bandit.
Each day for the past three years, York carefully has climbed into her car for the journey to a Sacramento County animal shelter where her 8-year-old dog awaits death.
During her visits, York likes to sit with Bandit in a fenced-in outdoor area (the indoor kennel area has a relentless stench). York drinks her coffee while Bandit sits at her feet, chewing on a bone or playing with toys.
Bandit is a TV addict, so York sometimes brings a laptop and plays movies for Bandit, who excitedly follows the movement on screen.
“Bandit means everything to me,” York said. “I’m sick, I’m tired, and I miss her terribly, and I want her to come home.”
In 2010, Bandit bit a mail carrier who had persistently knocked at York’s door. The bite mark was no bigger than a grain of rice and is barely visible in evidence photos, according to an April 2 press release. Nonetheless, Bandit, a mixed-breed female, was impounded and falsely accused of inflicting a severe and disfiguring injury. Despite the fact that Bandit had never been involved in a prior incident of aggression, a hearing was convened and a county official ordered her euthanized.
Since then, York has made numerous court filings for extensions while she struggles to save Bandit’s life. Until recently, much of the legal work was done pro bono. York lives on a fixed income and is unable to afford attorney fees in addition to paying for Bandit’s board at a Sacramento Animal Care and Regulation kennel. York has found no support from the Sacramento Board of Supervisors or the county’s executive office.
Animal Care officials have refused to reconsider the case, so York’s current legal struggle is to get the false claim of “severe bite” removed from the record and replaced with the more accurate description of “single small bite.”
An appeal to reassess the description of the wound is pending with a federal appellate court, and York is trying to raise money to pay for court expenses.
“The county has been totally unresponsive and unwilling to work with us,” she said. “Our only hope at this point is the appeal, but that could take a long time and is costly. We are hoping for divine intervention and to rally support from the community.”
On a rainy day six years ago, York found Bandit injured on a roadside after she had been hit by a car and left for dead. She nursed Bandit back to health, and the two were inseparable until the county impounded her. The separation has been difficult for York, who relies heavily on Bandit for companionship.
At some point during each visit, York has to say goodbye to Bandit, and each time it becomes a little more difficult.
“She and I are growing old apart, and it breaks my heart each time I walk away from our daily visits together,” York said.
Supporters have started a website. You can see more pictures and videos of Bandit and York on the Saving Bandit Facebook page. You also can sign a petition and donate to Bandit’s legal defense expenses.
To learn more about the Charlie and Lennox cases mentioned above, read these stories: