Thursday Jan 14 2010
Family will pay $12,000 for pitbull’s life
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
Second trial scheduled for next week
An Auburn pitbull owner and his family are willing to pay $12,000 if they can keep one of their dogs alive. But, if one of Daniel Coverston’s four pitbulls that attacked a teen is not let go, his family claims the 27-year-old cannot pay the thousands in dollars in fees, which have racked up since the dogs have been housed at the county’s animal shelter. Coverston’s defense attorney Dean Starks told the Journal this week that he made that offer on his client’s behalf to the city of Auburn after a national cable television star and pitbull expert examined the dogs. The city rejected it. In September, Coverston’s dogs escaped from his backyard, which borders a well-used parking lot at 894 Lincoln Way in Downtown Auburn. The dogs approached and then attacked 17-year-old Joseph “JoJo” Kerschner, who was on his way to meet his parents for dinner. Kerschner’s body suffered 20 puncture wounds and the teen needed more than 30 stitches to mend deeper bites. Starks said Coverston’s parents would pay the $12,000 in fees that have accrued since the pitbulls have been kept at the Placer County Animal Shelter a day after the attack. However, they would only do so if the city agrees to release one of the pitbulls named Otis. Starks said that a court order allowed pitbull expert Tia Maria Torres of Villalobos Rescue Center to determine which, if any of the dogs, could be rehabilitated. Torres’ pitbull recovery center in Southern California is the subject of a reality television show called “Pit Bulls and Parolees” that airs on the Animal Planet network. Starks said Torres was in town recently to examine the dogs and a camera crew captured the trip on film. Torres told Starks that Otis seemed retrainable. “She believes she can retrain Otis,” Starks said. “He’s not unsalvageable. She believes the other dogs cannot be salvaged.” However, Auburn city officials disagreed. The City Council rejected the offer in closed session at their meeting this week, according to Michael Colantuono, city attorney. “(The council) thought it amounted to passing Otis off to the next community,” Colantuono said. “They didn’t want to pass the buck. They think if the animal is dangerous, they should not pass it off and protect the next community.” Colantuono said Coverston has a legal duty to pay the bill. If he doesn’t pay the bill, it will be turned over to collection, Colantuono said. “It’s disappointing that Mr. Coverston is not prepared to take responsibility for the consequences of his actions,” Colantuono said. “The city hopes he doesn’t mean it and he will bear his responsibilities.” The offer rejection means the case will move forward to a second trial before a different Placer County judge. In October, Judge Joseph O’Flaherty presided over a hearing during which witnesses were called to testify about the incident and the dogs. A few weeks later O’Flaherty wrote a four-page decision saying the dogs should be euthanized and ordered Coverston not to own another dog in Auburn city or Placer County limits for the next three years. Coverston appealed the decision and a second trial is tentatively set for Jan. 22 before Judge Alan Pineschi. Starks said he believes the offer of a dog expert to train the dogs and that the family pay the animal shelter bill is a “win-win for everybody.” He added that Otis would not be returned to Coverston or any other Placer County resident. “The city’s position at this point is ridiculous,” Starks said. Colantuono said the city stands behind the first judge’s decision and is confident with the next judge. “It’s in the court’s hands,” Colantuono said. “We’re confident the court will do the right thing.” Jenifer Gee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.