Man wins battle to save pit bull from death row


Woody has spent two years, or 14 dog years, on doggie death row. That's unusual because most vicious dog cases at the Peninsula Humane Society are wrapped up in 30 days. But Woody's been in solitary for a long time.

"It does help the animal and certainly it doesn't help the owner and it doesn't help our shelter," Peninsula Humane Society spokesperson Scott Delucchi said.

"She was startled; she slipped right over here," Woody's owner Charlie Hilder said, describing the night two years ago when his dog slipped out of their Pacifica house and rushed at a nearby jogger. Hilder says Woody never bit her, that she injured herself when she fell.

"The doctor, in his report, stated that the scratch was from slipping and falling on a rock and it was definitely nothing the dog did," Hilder said.

The trouble was Woody had already been designated as dangerous when he was a puppy. Animal control said he bit a child on a skateboard. The second incident automatically made him a vicious animal and therefore sentenced to die.

Hilder hired a dog behaviorist who said Woody was no danger. Neighbors, including the mail carrier, wrote, asking for leniency, even the jogger pleaded for his life.

Monday, after almost two years of court appeals, Hilder finally settled with the city of Pacifica. Woody's life will be spared, but Hilder will have to pay the city $15,000 for its legal fees. He's already spent $10,000 paying his dog's boarding costs.

But Hilder says it's all been an act of love.

"When they put him in the truck to take him away, I promised I would get him out, it would be OK," Hilder said. "And he looked me in the eye. It was an eye contact thing. It was kind of hard to forget."

Hilder's attorney says one of the reasons the legal process took so long is that last year Pacifica laid off its city attorney because of the budget crisis. So, contract lawyers began handling the city's cases, including Woody's, and that took more time. Hilder will get Woody back when he pays the $15,000. He has 90 days to do that.

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