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Court hearing coming up in pitbull attack

Owner says new fence will keep dogs inside yard
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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A hearing in a case involving a Downtown Auburn pitbull attack is tentatively set for this Friday. The hearing is set for exactly a month after four pitbulls knocked down and bit a 17-year-old Weimar teen multiple times in a parking lot off Lincoln Way in Auburn. Dean Starks, defense attorney for the owner of the pitbulls, said he’s tried to settle out of court with the City of Auburn to no avail. “We agreed to label them as vicious dogs if we’re able to argue what to do with them,” Starks said Monday. Starks said he and his client, Daniel Coverston, want to agree to label the four pitbulls that attacked Joseph “JoJo” Kerschner as “vicious” but want to argue what happens to the dogs and possibly spare the life of at least one. Coverston said he is closest to the pitbull named Ronin, with whom he has “the craziest bond.” Auburn Police Capt. John Ruffcorn said the city turned down the offer to settle out of court in the interest of moving the case forward in the proper direction. “We deem these dogs to be vicious – all four of them,” Ruffcorn said. “We feel it is in the best interest of the city and the citizens of the city to not settle this case to move forward.” Ruffcorn revealed Monday that on Oct. 5 the city attorney’s office filed a petition, along with declarations from Ruffcorn, four other Auburn Police officers and the city’s animal control officer, asking that the four pitbulls be declared as “vicious.” The petition alleges that the dogs be declared vicious for attacking a person unprovoked and causing serious injury, Ruffcorn said. On Monday, Coverston showed the Journal the backyard fence he remodeled after the attack. The 27-year-old Auburn resident said he was planning to reinforce the fence before his dogs escaped but hadn’t yet. Coverston was dog-sitting Honey, a friend’s Stafford shire terrier, which is a breed that is the cousin of the American pitbull terrier, Monday afternoon. Coverston described the quiet dog as “very sweet.” Where there was once only a chain link fence, Coverston said he has now put the bottom of the fencing into six inches of concrete. He’s surrounded the entire backside of the fence with tall redwood planks. He said he has made it so the dogs cannot dig out, like they did before, or jump over. “Everywhere around the whole yard is locked down,” Coverston said. Coverston said he’s hoping that by taking these measures he can regain ownership of some of his dogs especially Ronin, whom Coverston says is “like my son.” He said he has scheduled for Ronin to be neutered if he is released. “I think if I’ve taken the steps that I’ve taken, I don’t see this happening again,” Coverston said. Family members of the victim said Friday that they would refrain from commenting on the investigation for the time being. Kerschner’s father, Gabe, said his son is “doing fine” but he still thinks about the attack that left him with more than 30 stitches in his body and 20 puncture wounds. Coverston said he has not contacted the Kerschners. “I am very sorry for what happened,” Coverston said. “I’m extremely glad he’s OK.” While Auburn officials have filed court documents, Ruffcorn said the investigation is still open. He said police are still considering filing criminal charges against Coverston. “We want to make sure we have a complete investigation,” Ruffcorn said. Starks said there is no evidence to file criminal charges against Coverston. Starks added that the dogs were taking anti-aggression shots at the advice of Coverston’s veterinarian at North Fork Veterinary Clinic in Auburn. On Monday, a representative with clinic declined to comment on the case and only identified herself as Chris. The dogs remain in Auburn Police custody. They are housed at the Placer County Animal Shelter. The hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. Oct. 16 in Dept. 30 at the Bill Santucci Justice Center in Roseville. Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com.