Findings: 'Disproportionate' Response; Dog Ordered Euthanized
Dangerous dog hearing of the San Francisco public library attack by an alleged "service" pit bull.
San Francisco, CA - On January 16, 2022, Fidel Joshua, a Buildings and Ground Patrol Officer at the San Francisco Public Library was viciously attacked by an alleged “service” pit bull while attempting to check on the welfare of the dog's owner, who was unresponsive and slumped over a desk. During the attack, a co-worker strikes the dog with a ball pein hammer several times, breaking the hammer. Part of the attack was captured on camera and posted to Reddit.
On February 1, a Vicious and Dangerous Dog hearing was held regarding the pit bull “Dorje.” This was the second hearing for Dorje. In January of 2019, the dog attacked a man, biting him on the head, who was approaching a recycling bin where Dorje's owner, Brendan Greene, was sleeping. Greene never woke up during the attack. During that hearing, Greene agreed to never leave Dorje unattended in a public place again. Dorje was deemed not vicious or dangerous at that time.
San Francisco Public Library Attack: Findings
1. This is Dorje’s second “Vicious and Dangerous Dog” hearing. On January 31, 2019, a prior hearing was held. Hearing Officer Vicky Guldbech issued a Statement of Decision dated February 4, 2019, in which she found that the evidence presented was sufficient to find that Dorje bit and caused injury to Eric Hartwell because Dorje was frightened and protective of Greene. Hearing Officer Guldbech also found that the evidence presented was sufficient to show that Greene was no longer homeless. In conclusion, she found, “Since this incident, Mr. Green [sic] is now aware of this behavior and will not put Dorje in a situation like this again. I do believe this incident was an accident, but Mr. Green [sic] can never leave Dorje unattended in a public place again.” (Ex. 6: Statement of Decision, p. 2.) Dorje was deemed not vicious and dangerous.
2. On January 16, 2022, Brendan Greene was found unresponsive on the third floor of the San Francisco Public Library. His Pit Bull dog, Dorje, was not on leash or under his control. Dorje barked aggressively, for approximately 10 minutes. Adairell Roberson, a library security officer, grabbed a hammer for protection and responded to the third floor to wait for SFSO deputies with other library personnel. Concerned Greene had overdosed, security officer Fidel Joshua grabbed a can of Narcan and responded to the third floor. Joshua slowly approached Greene with his arms to his side to do a welfare check and to see if Dorje was leashed. Dorje went underneath the table and lunged at Joshua’s neck. Joshua put his arm up to protect himself. Dorje bit his arm and pulled Joshua to the ground biting him multiple times on both arms. Roberson sprayed pepper spray on the dog, but it had no effect. Dorje continued his sustained attack on Joshua while Joshua screamed. Roberson struck Dorje on the head multiple times to protect Joshua. The hammer broke on Dorje’s head. Dorje stopped the attack. Joshua was transported to the hospital with severe puncture wounds on both arms. Dorje’s attack was unprovoked.
3. Greene was twice found unresponsive in public settings with Dorje at which time Dorje viciously attacked two adult men. Therefore, Greene cannot adequately control his dog within the meaning of Article 1, Section 42.3(c)(ii) of the San Francisco Health Code. - Hearing Officer Janelle Caywood , Statement of Decision, February 16, 2022
On February 16, 2022, Hearing Officer Janelle Caywood issued her Statement of Decision, which found that Dorje meets the vicious and dangerous criteria set forth in the San Francisco Health Code. Caywood ordered the dog to be humanely euthanized. She also banned Greene from owning or possessing any dogs in the City and County of San Francisco for a period of three years. Our video depicts the audio of the Vicious and Dangerous Dog hearing held February 1.
At (10:58) Fidel Joshua begins his testimony. Fidel is in the hospital while he is speaking. At (16:33) he describes the attack. "I tried to get the dog off me by hitting him with punches with my right hand. The dog yanked me down to the ground. As I fell, I continued to throw punches to try to get him off me … I see that officer Roberson had come over. He was hitting the dog with a pin hammer. I saw the hammer when it broke. I think he hit it like two or three times before it broke."
Still struggling with the dog, "I remember putting my right thumb in the dog's right eye," he said. Once the attack had concluded, and while still on the ground, Fidel said, "I realized I couldn't move my right leg," and there was blood on my hands. Fidel received emergency medical treatment for puncture wounds to both hands, nerve damage on his left hand, a torn meniscus, completely torn rotator cuffs, tears on his right shoulder and "completely detached" right quadricep muscles.
Adairell Roberson, a Buildings and Ground Patrol Officer at the San Francisco Public Library, provides testimony next (21:02). As he was responding to the call about an aggressively barking dog on the third floor, "I grabbed the hammer for protection. Because we don't have no clubs or anything. We just have pepper spray," he said. "So I said, 'I'm going to go ahead and grab something just in case this situation gets out of hand.'" He then dashed up to the third floor.
Roberson and his co-worker, Rita Masina, developed a perimeter so that other patrons in the library could not get close to the dog that was erratically "going back and forth" unleashed. He said he saw a blue rope, but it was unclear if it was attached to anything. Roberson and Masina shouted at the owner to wake up, but "the guy never buzzed, he never woke up," Roberson said. Meanwhile, fearing the owner had overdosed, Fidel approached the man with a can of Narcan.
"That is when the dog went underneath the table and jumped up toward Fidel's neck. And that is when Fidel started to defend himself…As soon as he started hitting the dog, that is when I deployed my OC spray…I'm trying to spray the dog and it has zero effect. That is when I went in my pocket, grabbed the hammer and started to hit the dog. I broke the hammer over the dog's head." (28:20) - Officer Adairell Roberson
Officer Rita Masina speaks next (31:41). She gives her account. At (37:02) she describes the chaotic scene. "The dog seemed to be shaking while he was biting, and jumping while he was biting. The hits were not affecting the dog," she said. "Then, all I recall is the hammer hitting him one time when it breaks. That is when I just noticed the dog let go. As Officer Roberson said, the dog was kind of unresponsive, like dazed. Then the dog ran over to its owner," Masina said.
At (44:32), Doreen Horstin, a librarian, provides interesting testimony. She thought the dog's owner was dead. "The owner Brandon Greene had his face on the computer keyboard. He was completely unresponsive. I was kind of wondering if he was dead actually. Because it was so loud, and he wasn't responding," Horstin said. When Greene did finally wake up, he started "yelling at our guards, telling them that it was their fault that the dog attacked them," she said (50:22).
Highly observant Horstin testified that Greene "said something really interesting" to the animal control officer, who was holding a catchpole. He said, "Don't use those. They've used those on my dog before. He doesn't like it. He'll freak out, or something like that," she said. "So, I thought, hmmm. That's interesting that he has had this experience before." Horstin also noted the size of the pit bull. The dog was "a little on the small side for a pit bull. I'd say 50 or 60 pounds," she said.
That even a California librarian recognizes that 50 to 60 pounds is small for a pit bull today indicates a substantial shift in the conformation of pit bulls from 15 years ago.1 Due to breeding for a "bullier" pit bull -- a thicker, heavier pit bull like the Gotti and Razor Edge bloodlines, which spun off into the American bully -- broader, stockier pit bulls are more common today than the lighter, athletic "game dog" conformation as depicted in the American Dog Breeders Association's logo.
Dog Owner's Testimony
At (1:08:08) Greene provides his testimony, which does him no favors, including the riveting story that his "truck was stolen" a few days before the attack, along with it, his "telephone, wallet, money, cards, clothes." Thus, Dorje and I were stuck in an "unfamiliar situation," he said. Prior to falling asleep in the library, Greene had stayed up all night walking around. "I was using the library" to make phone calls. "There were no drugs involved. It was just exhaustion," he said.
At (1:15:03) Hearing Officer Caywood asks the dog owner: "Mr. Greene, your dog had a prior Vicious and Dangerous Dog hearing almost three years to the day in 2019. Is that correct? I do have that file and I read it. In that incident, isn't it true that Dorje bit a man in the head while you were sleeping?" Greene responds: "Yes ma'am. I was at a very different point in my life." He added, "I was not in a good place with substance abuse," and "I had fallen asleep in an alley."
"Looks like you dodged a bullet here. The hearing officer found that your dog didn't meet the vicious and dangerous criteria. She noted that you were no longer homeless … This is what she wrote at the end of her decision, quote: 'Since this incident, Mr. Greene is now aware of his behaviors and will not put Dorje in a situation like this again.' And later in the decision, she wrote, 'Mr. Greene can never leave Dorje unattended in a public place ever again.'
The hearing officer gave you a break. Had compassion for the situation you were in. But the same thing happened. You fell asleep and your dog bit someone, rather severely. So, I am concerned about releasing this dog to the public." - Hearing Officer Janelle Caywood
In addition to the first attack that occurred in January 2019, Caywood noted that in January 2020 (yet another January) a woman at Grass Valley Animal Control called San Francisco Animal Care and Control asking for Greene's contact info. Dorje had come in as a stray. The woman from Grass Valley reported that "Dorje had blood on him." Grass Valley is about 145 miles northeast of San Francisco. Greene blamed that incident on a dog-sitter allowing his dog to get loose.
At (1:42:01), Officer Fidel Joshua is given three additional minutes to speak. "I just want to reiterate that the dog's owner was unresponsive in a public facility with a dangerous animal," Fidel said. "He has no control of his dog when he’s unconscious. And, it appears to have happened twice," he said. "That's very risky. Regardless of his excuses, what happened to him, there's still some responsibility that comes with owning a dog, especially a pit bull," Officer Joshua said.
At (1:46:02) Captain Amy Corso of San Francisco Animal Care and Control (SFACC) provides a recommendation for the outcome for Dorje. Due to the "disproportionate, protracted response" by the dog "resulting in severe injuries" to a grown adult -- injuries that included "complete avulsion" and "tearing and gaping wounds," a Level 5 bite -- "SFACC recommends humane euthanasia to protect public safety," Corso said. This was also not the dog's first serious bite, Corso said.
"While the protection of the owner is in line with resource guarding, the severity of the attack was beyond the context of a dog working properly. It was a disproportionate, protracted response, resulting in severe injuries to a grown adult. On the bite scale, this would register as a Level 5. And this was not the first serious bite. So, due to a poor prognosis, and a likelihood of repeat offenses, SFACC recommends humane euthanasia to protect public safety."
Hearing Officer Caywood then asks if Captain Corso can explain to people in attendance what a Level 5 bite is.
"Sure, I'll do it in relation to the injuries in this case," Corso said. "There was complete avulsion. Complete removal of tissue and skin. There was another one that was partial removal of tissue, which is where you see that flap of skin or flesh. And there were tearing and gaping wounds. Like I said, this is a mauling. That is the Level 5 bite size level." - Captain Amy Corso of San Francisco Animal Care and Control
San Francisco Public Library Attack: Conclusion
Based on the testimony at the hearing, the documents, photographs, videos, and the above Findings, Dorje meets the vicious and dangerous criteria under subdivisions (1) of Section 42. Credible evidence was presented establishing that Dorje attacked and bit Joshua multiple times on January 16, 2022. In determining whether a dog bite is provoked, the alleged victim’s behavior prior to the incident is examined. We look to whether the person bitten was either provoking or teasing the dog without cause. (See, e.g., SF Health Code, Art. 1, section 41.5.1) Here, Fidel Joshua did not provoke, strike, tease, or antagonize Dorje. He simply walked slowly toward Greene with Narcan to do a welfare check.
In response to Joshua’s slow approach to help Greene, Dorje lunged and tried to bite Joshua in the neck. The ensuing attack was nothing short of a mauling. The harrowing video depicted in Exhibit 4, which captured part of the attack, speaks for itself. Had Roberson not had the presence of mind to grab a hammer for protection before he responded to the third floor, Joshua could have been maimed or killed. Even with two adult males fighting with all their might to stop the attack, Joshua was still severely injured. In fact, he testified from the hospital following surgery weeks later. Believing Greene had overdosed, Joshua put his life on the line to attempt to care for Greene. In response to this good deed, Joshua was mauled by Greene’s vicious dog.
Greene’s assertion that Dorje’s attack on Joshua is justified on grounds that the dog was merely protecting Greene, is without merit. The critical inquiry is whether the attack was provoked. Even if Dorje attacked to “protect” Greene, the attack was still unprovoked. Not only did Joshua do nothing to antagonize the dog, but the severity of the attack was also completely disproportionate to Joshua’s slow, non-threatening approach with his arms at his side. As Captain Corso aptly stated, Dorje’s so-called protective behavior is not within a normal range. - Hearing Officer Janelle Caywood, Statement of Decision, February 16, 2022
This was a well-run hearing conducted via a conference call that included about a dozen witnesses in a high-profile case. The still graphic used for the hearing's audio overlay shows Greene during his 2019 hearing. Officer Caywood did not preside over that hearing. She is seen in the overlay from the 2019 Chinatown hearing. Both hearings were captured by Black Summers Productions, LLC, which created a three-part video documentary series critical of SFACC.
We continue to be haunted by the words of Officer Roberson, who grabbed a ball pein hammer before dashing up to the third floor to face a vicious dog. "I grabbed the hammer for protection. Because we don't have no clubs or anything. We just have pepper spray," he said. Roberson and the other San Francisco Public Library security officers had been waiting on a sheriff's deputy to arrive, who was armed with the tools and equipment necessary to respond to a vicious animal.
Officer Roberson's actions were also included in the Statement of Decision. "Had Roberson not had the presence of mind to grab a hammer for protection before he responded to the third floor, Joshua could have been maimed or killed. Even with two adult males fighting with all their might to stop the attack, Joshua was still severely injured," Caywood wrote. This is especially true since Roberson first deployed a can of pepper spray on the attacking pit bull, which had "zero effect."
The soft-spoken victim, Fidel Joshua, who called in from the hospital, is also unforgettable. At one point during his testimony, he states the obvious about Green's "service dog" claim too. "My personal opinion is that I think they need these dogs for protection because they are homeless. They bring them into the facility and they are a danger to others." This is yet another loophole in the ADA that can allow fake service dogs to inflict a first and second attack in a public space.
Greene in part "dodged a bullet" during the 2019 hearing because the victim did not attend. Officer Ryan Crockett of the SFPD's Vicious and Dangerous Dog Unit did play a recorded statement by the victim, but that does not carry the same weight as attending and speaking to the hearing officer. What did the first victim think when the Reddit video went viral? The outcome of the first hearing should have been declaring Dorje vicious and dangerous with mandatory muzzling.
Since this incident, Mr. Greene is now aware of this behavior and will not put Dorje in a situation like this again. I do believe this incident was an accident, but Mr. Greene can never leave Dorje unattended in a public place ever again. I was also disappointed that I could not speak to Mr. Hartwell. I did accept his statement, but Officer Crockett indicated he just did not want to appear at the hearing. - Hearing Officer Vicky Guldbech, Statement of Decision, February 2, 2019
Dorje was 9.5-years old when he attacked Fidel, according to Greene. The dog had been with Greene since the age of 1. Greene claimed his dog was a "service dog for PTSD" and had been "professionally trained." Dorje was neutered at the age of 2, Greene testified. All three incidents, including two resulting in a Vicious and Dangerous Dog hearing, occurred years after the dog had been neutered. The only upshot of Dorje being neutered is that this dog could not reproduce.
Finally, we asked Mike Black, who has since closed Black Summers Productions, how often a hearing results in the owner being banned from owning dogs in the City and County for 3-years. Black has audited roughly 250 of these hearings between March 2017 and today. From May 2017 to March 2020, when the pandemic forced the City to switch to telephone conferences, Black video recorded every single hearing. Black said the 3-year ownership ban is rarely invoked.
"I would describe the 3-year ban as a measure that is rarely invoked -- maybe a half dozen times in my period of monitoring the hearings. As you would expect, the owner has to have demonstrated on more than one occasion a marked inability or unwillingness to control a dangerous dog. In many ways, it's a more extreme measure than a euthanasia order. It's not about just one bad dog, but about an owner who has shown a serious disregard for the safety of others. I think the hearing officers understand that this restriction deprives a human being of a real benefit, the companionship of an affectionate pet, and so it's reserved for that person who simply can't be trusted to do the right thing with any dog." - Mike Black
12/10/19: Vicious and Dangerous Dog Hearing; Pit Bulls Attack Man and His Dog in Chinatown
05/28/19: Installment 3: Conflict of Interest: San Francisco Animal Control and Virginia Donohue
12/06/18: Installment 2: San Francisco Animal Control: Vicious and Dangerous Dogs Unleashed