GOLETA, Calif. - Goleta city officials are speaking out about Benson the dog, a case that has generated significant discussion on social media.
Benson is a black Lab being held in a county animal shelter. Deemed to be a dangerous dog in a Goleta city hearing, Benson is now set to be humanely euthanized but his owner is appealing the city's decision.
“We really love Benson. He's a part of our family and if we truly thought he was dangerous we wouldn't be fighting this hard,” said Kelsey Hill, Benson’s owner.
Hill calls Goleta's Municipal Code dealing with dangerous dogs “inhumane” and “unfair.”
In a document that summarized the city's hearing on Benson, Goleta's Director of Neighborhood Services and Public Safety wrote the dog was determined to have met three of five criteria necessary to be deemed a dangerous animal.
Vyto Adomaitis’ report lays out the October 21, 2018 incident. Benson was found to have charged a woman and her two Golden Retrievers at La Patera School. Benson allegedly bit one of the other dog’s necks and then the woman who tried to intervene. Once she was able to get Benson into a headlock, the Lab attempted to bite the woman’s face but ultimately bit her left arm. She was transported to Cottage Valley Hospital where she was treated for bite wounds. None of the dogs were injured.
In a statement released Thursday, Goleta City Attorney Mike Jenkins also confirmed there was a separate, earlier incident in 2018 involving another unprovoked attack by Benson on another dog.
In the statement, Jenkins said “one incident resulted in the death of the canine victim and the second resulted in a bite of the canine victim's owner as she intervened to protect her dogs,” referring to the second incident.
You can read his full statement here.
However, Benson's owners don't think the city has treated them or their pet fairly. “There's been a lot of things along the way, we really don’t feel like the city has followed protocol,” Hill said.
A person with direct knowledge of the first attack says Benson was off leash both times.
During the first attack, the source said Benson was supposed to be socializing with a neighbor's 9-week-old Australian Labradoodle when the Lab lunged and grabbed the 10-pound dog’s neck, which caused fatal internal injuries. The source said the incident happened in front of a 13-year-old boy as Benson's jaws were pried off the puppy by the child's father. The Labradoodle eventually had to be put down because her femur was broken in three places and every internal organ was damaged.
Benson's owners believe their dog has been unfairly maligned by the incidents.
“This is bigger than us, this is bigger than the details of what happened, again human error, let the human be responsible for it and not the dog's life,” Hill said.
More than 15,000 people have signed a #SaveBenson petition online but much of the support came before details of the past attack was known.
The source said no one in the community is pushing for euthanization but neighbors want a safe community and are nervous about what might happen if Benson is allowed to return home.
Advocates in the rescue community share the sentiment that the dog should be spared but should not be returned to the Hills.
A hearing with a Superior Court judge is scheduled for late January.