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Sonoma County seeking ‘dangerous’ label for pit bulls that killed dog on Graton trail

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One of two pit bulls involved in an attack that killed a small dog and injured its owner in November on a public trail in Sonoma County had attacked another dog months before, according to public records.

County lawyers described the prior incident in a petition filed this week in Sonoma County Superior Court seeking to formally label the dogs as “potentially dangerous” and impose restrictions aimed at limiting the animals’ ability to wander free.

The effort to designate the dogs as dangerous stems from a Nov. 3 incident when they escaped a backyard and ran loose on a portion of the West County Trail near Graton. The dogs — a male blue pit bull named Major Azul, or Buddy, and a female Brindle pit bull, Baby — killed a 12-pound Jack Russell terrier- pug mix, Lucy, according to the records. Both dogs remain in the care of county animal control services.

Eight months earlier, Buddy attacked another dog in a west Santa Rosa neighborhood off West Steele Lane, records show. Buddy escaped from a house on Mohawk Street in March and attacked a small dog, drawing an animal services officer to the scene. A brother of the dog’s then-owner corralled the dog and was given a warning by the county officer, officials said.

In November, Buddy again escaped a backyard, this time also with Baby, records show. The animals were running loose on the trail when they approached two women walking with their small dogs. The women picked up their pets, but Buddy and Baby reportedly began jumping up and nipping at one of the women, Jordan Simmons of Occidental, and her dog Lucy. The pit bulls eventually got Lucy out of Simmons’ arms and mauled it until the animal died, according to Simmons, witnesses and county records.

A witness told animal services officers she heard a woman screaming: “they are ripping apart my dog” and ran toward the fracas to help, according to the petition.

Simmons’ injuries contributed to the county’s effort to put restrictions on the animals. She had a small puncture wound on a hand and abrasions and contusions on her abdomen, legs and hand, according to animal services, court records show.

The county’s petition named Buddy’s owners as Tabitha Zeigler and Conner Williams, who were both in jail at the time of the Nov. 3 attack. A friend was looking after the animals during their incarceration, according to the records. Zeigler and Williams couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Friday.

Records also show Buddy has a scattered history with ownership and showed no record of any history for Baby.

Buddy belonged to a Mohawk Street resident in March when the first known attack occurred. By April, Buddy was found abandoned in a vehicle rented by Zeigler and taken into county custody, according to records. Zeigler and Williams later claimed the animal was theirs at the county animal shelter and showed veterinary paperwork as proof, the files said.

Both Zeigler and Williams were in jail when the November attack occurred. Zeigler said the animals were hers and said she was homeless and wanted to keep them. She offered to voluntarily declare the two dogs as potentially dangerous.

The designation gives the county authority to inspect the enclosures meant to keep the dogs confined and ensure the animals are licensed, vaccinated, securely enclosed or kept on a 6-foot leash.

You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 707-521-5220 or julie.johnson@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @jjpressdem.

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