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Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Reprieve For Fiona: Trial of Vicious Dog Featured in SF Weekly Story Delayed -- But Even the Cop Adjudicating Case Doesn't See This Ending Well

Posted By on Thu, Jul 2, 2009 at 9:30 AM

click to enlarge Fiona the mastiff's Animal Control intake photo - SFACC
  • Fiona the mastiff's Animal Control intake photo
On Monday we reported that Fiona, the large, vicious Italian mastiff featured in our recent cover story "Service with a Snarl" had been seized by Animal Control following accusations it attacked yet another San Franciscan.

Sergeant Bill Herndon  is the police officer who adjudicates the city's "Vicious and Dangerous Dog Court." He told us that Fiona, who came very close to being destroyed during her last hearing involving multiple attacks, has gotten a temporary reprieve. The law requires owners to sign a document allowing less than two weeks notice before a dog court hearing. Herndon said that Fiona's owner, Heather Morris -- who told SF Weekly she was intent on declaring the dog a service animal -- promised that she would come in on Wednesday to sign such papers, but did not. As a result, the hearing , which in all likelihood will determine whether Fiona lives or dies, has been rescheduled from today to July 16.

Herndon told SF Weekly he never makes up his mind before a hearing. But he also said that because Fiona has repeatedly bitten and attacked humans and Morris has just as persistently failed to abide by orders to muzzle the dog in public, he just can't imagine any plausible way he won't be forced to euthanize Fiona -- "and I just hate it."

Herndon told us that he is allowed, by law, to take dogs away from people instead of euthanizing them -- but he was skeptical that a dog like Fiona could possibly be adopted out. And while Morris brought up the possibility of having the dog removed to a remote farm at Fiona's last trial, in April, Herndon wasn't keen on that idea either. To essentially banish a dangerous dog from San Francisco is to make it somebody else's problem -- and, quite possibly, doom some out-of-towner to a dog attack.

Barring some unusual circumstance -- such as someone stealing the dog and taking it out without Morris' knowledge -- Herndon just can't see any way he won't have to order Fiona's destruction. What's more, he said he's inclined to order Morris not to own any dogs for the next three years.

This latter decree is all the more relevant as Herndon has heard reports of Morris walking a Rottweiler puppy around Bernal Heights.

"Lots of times people figure a [vicious dog in custody] is a lost cause and go out and get another," he says. "Unless she presents something really dramatic, I have no choice but to euthanize [Fiona]. We've given her enough rope, and she's hung herself multiple times."

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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