Monday, March 25, 2019
Court of Appeal:
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal for this district has declined to reexamine its March 6 decision granting a reprieve to a dog, earmarked for death by the County of Los Angeles for attacking a couple who were impermissibly present on a private road abutting the family’s residence in a gated ranchland community, and ordering further fact-finding.
A petition for rehearing was filed Wednesday and denied on Thursday.
Two modifications were, however, made in the opinion. References to “unsigned” statements by the husband and wife who were bitten by the mixed-breed dog, Venice, were changed to “unverified” statements and, in response to a protest by the county that the opinion impermissibly dealt with a contention raised the first time in the reply brief, a footnote was added, saying that there’s discretion to do so.
Other points raised in the petition were not addressed.
The defendant in the action, the County of Los Angeles Department of Animal Care and Control, was represented throughout the proceedings—up until the petition for rehearing—solely by the County Counsel’s Office. In connection with the petition, the county secured additional representation from the downtown Los Angeles firm of Carpenter, Rothans & Dumont.
The March 6 opinion, which was not certified for publication, was authored by Justice John Segal. It reversed Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Mary H. Strobel’s denial of a petition for a writ of mandamus sought by Ethan Adamson, whose dog caused the couple’s injuries—severe in the case of the husband—and was condemned to death by the county as a “vicious dog” following administrative proceedings.
The incident took place in May 2015. Venice was seized by the county and has not been allowed to return home.
Adamson has been paying for his boarding at a private kennel.
County Code Provision
At issue in the case was the applicability of a County Code provision setting forth:
“No dog may be declared potentially dangerous or vicious if any injury or damage is sustained by a person who, at the time the injury or damage was sustained, was committing a wilful trespass… upon premises occupied by the owner or custodian of the dog….”
The hearing officer in the case, Brian Frick, on loan from Orange County, reasoned that the persons who were attacked by Venice, Michael and Shannon Smith, could not have been trespassing because all members of the public have a right to use private roads and, in any event, the private street by the Adamson property was not “occupied” by the family.
“[B]ecause the public does not always have the right to travel on a private road,” Segal wrote, “use of a private road by a member of the public, without the owner’s permission, may constitute a trespass.”
The jurist went on to say:
“The hearing officer, like the trial court, apparently concluded a property owner cannot possibly “occupy” that portion of his or her property that is used as a road. The law, however, is otherwise.”
Segal said there must be a further development of the facts, including whether the Smiths were willfully trespassing.
The case is Adamson v. County of Los Angeles Department of Animal Care & Control, B278803.
Copyright 2019, Metropolitan News Company