2014 has been a good year so far for 83-year-old Homer Majolica. Since last November, the San Antonio retiree had been without his beloved dog, Buddy. For two months, Buddy was held in a kennel at the Animal Care Services Brooks City-Base facility after he was accused of attacking a 9-year-old girl. Judge Daniel Guerrero initially ordered that Buddy be euthanized. A Care2 member, Jennifer Blachly, started a petition asking the city of San Antonio to spare Buddy’s life and, thanks to Care2 members taking action, Buddy was saved.
Residents of the Northwest Side apartment complex where both Majolica and the family of the young girl lived had always known Buddy, a golden retriever mix, to be a constant companion to his owner. Every morning, Majolica fed Buddy treats and then read the paper nearby, and in the afternoon he watched TV with his dog. Two years ago, Buddy saved Majolica’s life when he urged the elderly man to cut short a morning walk and head back to the apartment complex. Minutes later, Majolica suffered a heart attack.
On November 1, Majolica and Buddy encountered the young girl and her mother in the parking lot of the apartment complex where they both live. Buddy was performing tricks to entertain the girl when, as the San Antonio Express-News relates, the girl “screamed in his face and scratched her — resulting in a cut lower lip, a gash on her right cheek, and a deep scratch on her lower eyelid.” She needed surgery to mend a tear duct along with 100 stitches for cuts.
Afterwards, Buddy was placed in the kennel. After Judge Guerrero ruled that Buddy had to be euthanized, animals welfare activists took up his case and also sought to help Majolica and his wife. The elderly couple found themselves not only facing a legal case but also fees for boarding Buddy with Animal Control Services. Many activists rallied in support.
Care2 members’ efforts made a difference in directing negative media attention to the city of San Antonio. As Gilberto Garcia wrote in the News-Express, the campaign to save Buddy also highlighted San Antonio’s “flawed system” as well as Texas’ controversial serious bodily injury law for dogs. Under this, a judge can rule that a dog be euthanized with no opportunity for appeal “if the judge concludes that the dog caused a serious injury, regardless of the circumstances that led up to the attack.”
The controversial law was designed to protect the community from dangerous animals but hasn’t exactly done that. As Garcia points out, last year, two mastiffs owned by an actor, Ricardo Chavez, were allowed to remain with their owner after they got loose and attacked a neighbor.
Prior to the November incident, Buddy had no history of aggression. As a result of the settlement agreement, Buddy must now be muzzled and kept on a 6-foot-or-shorter leash when he goes out. Majolica and his wife have also had to find a new place to live as the managers of the apartment complex have said they cannot return; they are currently residing with his sister.
The parents of the girl have also expressed frustration with city officials and said that Majolica should have been allowed to go through the regular appeals process. As the girl’s father notes, the family has also found itself dealing with “all the resentment that’s out there toward our daughter.”
One supporter of Buddy, Deanna Lee, the founder of Advocates for San Antonio Pets, emphasizes that she and other animal welfare activists “care about the child as much as we care about Buddy.” As Lee says, it was Buddy who “was the one who was going to die for it.”
Thanks to Care2 members, Majolica hasn’t been deprived of his Buddy. His nearly being euthanized, and all that the girl and her family have faced, underscore the need for San Antonio and Texas to address an inadequate system for handling such cases involving dogs and people and ensuring the well-being of all.
Is there an injustice or a law that doesn’t seem to be doing what it should in your community? Start a petition and let authorities know, to make your community a place that’s safe and welcoming for all.
Photo via Jennifer Blachly