Town Crier: Tougher dog laws sought in Montclair

MONTCLARION: March 11, 2011

Rebecca Faiola wants to take a bite out of crime — canine crime. As a mother, musician and neighborhood activist, she’s pushing for tougher laws for dangerous dogs in the wake of a fatal pit bull attack on a pet in her neighborhood.

“We are committed to seeing this through,” says Faiola, “and helping to make all of our neighborhoods safe.” Faiola and others have been meeting with Councilwoman Jane Brunner and Animal Control Director Megan Webb to draft new legislation for Oakland. She says the “law” will be ready soon and they’ll come to dog owners for support.

In the meantime, “the biggest thing we learned is to report any dog that is out of their yard,” says Faiola, “and all attacks — even if they are ‘no-contact’ threats.” This will start a record on an animal that will help in the wake of another offense.

It’s a hot-button topic with readers, not all of whom see pit bulls as a threat.

“My pit is a purebred lap dog (about 100 pounds) we’ve had since a puppy,” writes Lois Johnson, who says she wants to be able to walk her dog without scaring people. “Education is important regarding stereotypical images of these dogs, which can be the most loving.”

Meanwhile, it’s a Doberman that worries dog owner Kathleen Witt — who’s been attacked twice by the same animal.

“After the second attack in Redwood Park, I was left with four stitches, three badly bruised ribs, an extreme case of poison oak and severe trauma,” she writes. Five years later, she’s still nervous about walking her dog in public and the Doberman, she says, is still living with its elderly owners.

How do you feel about Oakland’s dog laws? Take the Town Crier poll at, and I’ll share the results next week.

TOOL TIME: Is there a push broom taking up room in your garage? Perhaps a pruner or trowel? The Montclair Village Association is collecting old implements to help volunteers groom the Montclair Railroad Trail into and out of the Village. If you can help with a tool or two, Bank of the West and Sarber’s Cameras are the drop-off locations.

MOTHER’S LOVE: A little bird tells me it’s Robin Azzalina’s birthday. You all know her — she’s the gregarious clerk at the Montclair Safeway who has logged 35 years at the grocery chain. Robin’s mom, Socorro McManis, says her daughter turns 54 on March 16 and she’s not only a great gal — she’s an expert baker who makes a mean pumpkin bar and a tasty raspberry crisp. Stop by and wish Robin a happy birthday — and maybe she’ll give you a “sample.”

DYNAMIC DUO: Like Rogers and Astaire, Hills historian Lisa Brenkman is working with archivist Jean Cunningham to add music to her collection of Ice Follies costumes and memorabilia. After my article on Brenkman’s endeavors, Cunningham contacted me to say that as head of the Paramount Theatre Music Library, she has Follies music from 1947 through the ’50s and beyond. The result of this match could be an elaborate evening of dance and live music celebrating one of San Francisco’s iconic shows — the Shipstads & Johnson Ice Follies.

SQUAWK TALK: In a continuing effort to connect you with nature, here’s a tip for teaching your wild raven to talk. After you’ve bonded with the bird in your yard, calmly introduce a word or phrase. “Nevermore” is a favorite, but you may want to start with “hello.” If the bird seems to be saying something else, repeat it and see if the raven mimics you. Readers who have tried this are now having meaningful conversations with their new feathered friends.

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior by phone at 510-273-9418, by e-mail at or on the web at


5 thoughts on “Town Crier: Tougher dog laws sought in Montclair

  1. Ginny –

    I have three dogs ranging in size from 15lbs to 60lbs – the smallest is the most aggressive (Jack Russell) the largest is the sweetest (pit/boxer/lab). We regularly walk off leash at Redwood and have never encountered an aggressive Pit. We have encountered many aggressive people who do not know how to behave around dogs and act in threatening manners (waving sticks, yelling, running).

    I know we all have to share these parks but there are only a few places we can hike with our dogs off leash so would suggest that people who do not like dogs choose dog-free or leash required trails.

    As for the bad dogs that attack, don’t let a few bad apples spoil the bunch – dogs are wonderful, intelligent, kind companion animals. Raised in a poor environment they can grow to be poorly behaved, or they can overcome and be amazing companions. Not unlike their human owners.


  2. Two ways to improve dog safety:
    1. If a dog is known to attack dogs or people it should be required to wear a muzzle in public. I rarely see dogs wear muzzles but I often hear warnings from dog owners to keep my dog away from their vicious dog.

    2. The Montclair Railroad Trail has a sign stating that dogs must be on leash. Many dog owners disregard this & I’ve had several near misses with their out of control pets. What these dog owners don’t seem to understand is that this is a multi-use trail. If they want to walk their dog off leash there are other places they can go.

    How do other trails enforce dog leash rules?

    Not all off leash dogs on the trail are out of control, but many are and it’s enough for me to seek out other places to walk my dog.

  3. What I say is tougher vicious dog owner laws and to check out the owner of this Doberman. It is generally not the fault of the dog when they are allowed to get by with this behavior. And if this has happened once, the dog should not be allowed anywhere that it comes in contact with the general public.

    Since 1982 I have had several Dobermans. My dogs are loving and gentle and respond to commands. I suppose we all think that about our dogs. I have warning signs all over my fence, but I also have clients coming in and out with their children and if these dogs were not totally safe, this could not happen.

    I currently have two Dobermans and they are creampuffs, as all my dobies have been. They are my protectors — I have a totally fenced yard and keyed deadbolt on my gate. No key, no entering or exiting. It’s highly unlikely that either of my girls would attack anyone, even if provoked, although I would hope they would protect me.

    It’s interesting that this article focuses on a Doberman when there are hardly any around anymore. I seem to be one of a very few that has the breed. Several Veterinarians have told me they haven’t seen a dobie in years. When someone stole my six month old puppy (with tags) I continue to look for thirteen years and during all that time I have only seen two dobermans being walked on leash. One on Trestle Glen and one by Mills College. That’s it. Two in thirteen years.

    While I’m very sorry that Kathleen Witt was hurt, I’m also sorry that you chose the Doberman breed to be considered dangerous. Their reputation comes from many years ago when they were army dogs and fifteen or so years ago when pitbulls became a dangerous issue, Oprah did a show and the dogs listed to be wary of did not include a Doberman. They are also not included in the Dangerous Dog Act of 1991 and Amendment 1997.

    Any breed can be dangerous, expecially ones with owners that haven’t properly trained them or, even worse, want a ‘tough’ dog. Neglect is an amazing thing.

  4. Although I’ve never personally felt threatened by an off leash dog, I do have issues with people who feel their dogs don’t deserve to be leashed.
    I have a St. Bernard who is dog aggressive and he has been attacked 3 times by off leash dogs. Each of those attacks were not prompted by anything my leashed dog did and each one of those dogs is lucky to be alive.
    Because of these attacks and seeing the strength of my dog when he’s fighting, our walks in my neighborhood are so incredibly stressful as I hope that the person coming out of their house up ahead doesn’t have an off leash dog following right behind them.

    Whenever I’m up in the hills working I see off leash dog after off leash dog and even up on trails where dogs must be leashed, most people don’t follow the leash law (where it applies) which means I can never take my dog up to the trails to enjoy the area. Can’t take a chance because those illegal off leash dogs are a terrible problem for my leashed dog.
    I can’t even take my dog to open space areas (parks, fields), to run around on a long lead because of off leash dogs. So, my dog is a prisoner in his own neighborhood because we can’t take the chance of going anywhere where there’s a threat of an off leash dog.

    Leash laws are on the books to keep people and other dogs safe, but there a many people who think the laws don’t apply to them.
    How nice.

  5. Yes, I definitely think there need to be some changes in the way that Oakland police and animal control officers react to incidences of vicious dogs. However, I am not certain that “tougher laws” would necessarily help.

    Many years ago, my beloved Siamese cat was killed by two Siberian huskies who were allowed to run loose all day while their owners were at work. I reported this to the police. The result? An officer went by the dog owners’ house and “had a talk” with them. That was it! The dogs continued to run loose until the people moved away.

    My point is that tougher laws (whatever that may mean) would not be effective, if they are not enforced, even as present-day leash laws are not enforced.

    Still, I would be interested in seeing information on what exactly these tougher laws would entail. (I definitely think they should NOT be breed=specufic!)

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