Judge rules for pitbulls

L.A. rescue woman to evaluate dogs
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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The owner of four “vicious” pitbulls is challenging a judge’s ruling that they can be euthanized. Daniel Coverston has filed an appeal in Placer County court disputing Judge Joseph O’Flaherty’s Nov. 5 decision that Coverston’s four pitbulls “create a significant threat” to the community. The Auburn owner is asking a Southern California pitbull rescue center owner to make a trip to the Placer County Animal Shelter to see his dogs and determine whether or not they can be rehabilitated. Defense attorney Dean Starks said last week Placer County Judge Alan Pineschi approved his motion to have the expert, Tia Maria Torres of Villalobos Rescue Center, come to Auburn to see if she can retrain the pitbulls. Starks said he does not know when Torres, who runs the pitbull rescue center in North Los Angeles County, will arrive. “These are not horrible dogs,” Starks said. “They got out and they bit somebody, but the idea is rather than kill them all, it might be possible to retrain them with somebody who knows what they’re doing.” In September, the four dogs attacked and severely injured Weimar teen Joseph “JoJo” Kerschner in a Downtown Auburn parking lot located off Lincoln Way. The 17-year-old suffered 30 stitches and 20 puncture wounds to his body as a result of the unprovoked confrontation. After a hearing held Oct. 16, O’Flaherty wrote in a four-page decision that the dogs were a threat to public safety and banned their owner, Coverston, from owning another dog within Auburn city limits for the next three years. However, Coverston appealed the decision and both he and the city face a Jan. 8 court appearance regarding the case. Ruffcorn said the city opposed having an expert come see the dogs. The Auburn Police captain said a judge already ruled the dogs are “vicious and dangerous.” In prior reports, Coverston defended the four pitbulls involved and described them as gentle pets. “They’re very kind, very sweet,” Coverston said in a prior report. “They listen to me very well.” The four dogs escaped from Coverston’s backyard the day of the attack when Coverston was out of state. The yard backs up into the busy Downtown Auburn parking lot where Kerschner was injured. Starks said Coverston would “love to have the dogs back,” but understands a judge may not grant him that chance. “He just doesn’t want them to get killed because of a human fault that they got out,” Starks said. Coverston showed the Journal earlier this year the extra security he added to his backyard, including double fencing and more concrete in the ground so the dogs cannot dig out. However, O’Flaherty was not impressed by Coverston’s post-attack security measures. “To securely house such powerful, aggressive animals there should be walls and fences of a big city zoo,” O’Flaherty wrote in his statement. O’Flaherty wrote in his decision that were it not for the help of two witnesses, Kerschner would have been the victim in a “horrible mauling death.” Ruffcorn said the city plans to stand by O’Flaherty’s ruling. “We thought the original judge’s decision was accurate,” Ruffcorn said. The dogs remain housed at the Placer County Animal Shelter at Coverston’s expense, Ruffcorn said. Jenifer Gee can be reached at