The mauling death this month of a Pacifica woman by her unfixed male pit bull has reignited the debate over the mandatory spaying and neutering of pit bulls. In 2005, after the mauling death of 12-year-old Nicholas Faibish, San Francisco passed an ordinance requiring residents to fix their pit bulls.
But as Genghis Muskox — that's a person, not a dog — has learned, the pit bull law isn't the only way the city can make off with your pet's gonads. Being accused of abusing your animal can force you into signing away its reproductive abilities. And paying for the operation, too.
Muskox' tale began on Jan. 14 on his sailboat at Pier 39 when his female black labrador, Coffee Bean, gave a new meaning to the term "poop deck." Muskox, a 25-year-old self-professed lush who works as a boat detailer, says he pushed the 3-year-old dog into the water with his foot as punishment. (He admits he'd had three beers, but says he was not drunk.) Labradors are hearty swimmers, and Muskox says Coffee Bean often does laps around the boat. Bottom line: She wasn't going to drown.
Still, the pier's security called the cops to arrest him for animal cruelty. The security guards' declarations in police reports accuse him of dragging the dog by its collar, kicking it in the ribs, and then booting it into the bay.
The cops tossed Muskox and Coffee Bean in the clink: jail for the man, Animal Care and Control (ACC) for the dog. Once Muskox made bail, ACC hearing officer Kathleen Brown announced that he could get his canine companion back only on the condition that she be spayed.
"That was a violation of my rights and hers," Muskox says. He believes that dogs who have had puppies become more "self-aware," and says he had considered letting Coffee Bean birth a litter.
ACC director Rebecca Katz says the city often imposes mandatory spaying on owners accused of animal cruelty, citing broad language in the California penal code. "A lot of it is about them doing the responsible thing," she says. "If the dog is male, the testosterone levels are lower [after neutering] so the aggression could be diminished, and for females, it's about not drawing the males and not reproducing."
These days, Muskox is broke after paying out $900 for bail, $1,000 for vet visits to determine whether Coffee Bean had been abused, $300 for the SPCA classes, and $180 for the spaying. Adding in lawyer's fees, Muskox says he's having trouble making rent on his boat slip — plus he owes his mom $1,500.
At his hearing, Muskox presented more than 30 character letters talking about how nicely he treats Coffee Bean. Even the hearing officer wrote that Muskox showed "most concern for the welfare of his dog."
"I was shoved through the justice system on bogus charges," he says. "I got totally screwed, basically."
At least now Muskox is the only male companion Coffee Bean will ever need.