PASADENA — These days, you'll find David Anderson at his usual spot near the United Artists Marketplace Theater on Colorado Boulevard, playing his harmonica, but his pals, "Hounder" and "Trouble," have been absent lately.
The two dogs--a husky, dark-haired mongrel with the jaws of a pit bull and a frisky shepherd mix with big coyote-like ears--are at the Pasadena Humane Society pound.
The way Anderson tells it, he tied them to a tree so he could use the restroom in a restaurant around the corner. When he came out, he says, Humane Society officer Ednel German was there, getting ready to load Hounder and Trouble into his truck.
"Why don't they take the dogs that are loose on the freeway or who are attacking people?" Anderson, a homeless street performer for two years, asked while being interviewed a few days after the animals were taken. "Why do they have to take two harmless dogs?"
The March 13 seizure of Anderson's dogs, who are usually perched together on a folding chair next to their master, has raised an outcry from his friends and animal lovers, more than 430 of whom have signed a petition in his behalf. Some charge that the city is using its leash law to harass homeless people in its popular Old Pasadena restaurant and entertainment area.
"I think they're trying to get rid of the street people in Old Town," said Laverne Carlson, a paralegal worker who saw the officer handcuff Anderson and cart the dogs away. Anderson was quickly released, but the animals remain behind bars. Carlson's boss, attorney David Ridenour, is representing Anderson without charge.
Anderson, 24, has been charged with violating the leash law, which requires that leashed dogs be held by their owner--not tied to lampposts, or trees--when they are on public streets. He is scheduled to appear in Pasadena Municipal Court on Wednesday. He has also been charged with resisting a humane officer.
Technically, Anderson faces penalties of up to $500 in fines and six months in jail, and the Humane Society could bill him for the cost of keeping the two dogs. But society spokesmen say they have no intention of seeking jail or monetary penalties.
"Here's where we wear our humane hat," said Humane Society Executive Director Steven McNall. "Our concern is only that the court find some way to make David abide by the law."
Anderson has run afoul of the Humane Society before, say administrators of the society, which is under contract with the city to enforce the leash law. Anderson has been given three prior tickets for allowing his dogs to go without leashes, for which he received admonishments, records show.
But Anderson and his supporters detect some selective enforcement there.
"I counted 10 dogs without leashes on Colorado Boulevard one day," said the rugged-looking former Orange County resident, who arrived in Pasadena about a year ago from the streets of Hollywood in an attempt to escape the drug scene there. "Where's the Humane Society when people who look like they can afford dogs walk around without leashes?"
The two sides bumped against each other in front of the society's headquarters on South Raymond Avenue on Monday, when Anderson went to visit "Hounder" and "Trouble." Anderson found his friend Jennifer Pattini there, just as the Humane Society's McNall emerged from the building.
The leash law is important because it protects both owner and dog, McNall explained.
"What if someone was pushing a baby carriage down the street and the dog jumped out and scared the individual?" McNall said. "This is why leash laws are enforced in every city in the United States. If your dog bites someone, or causes a traffic accident, you are liable."
In fact, the Humane Society was protecting the two dogs, McNall insisted.
"We're taking care of them medically, providing food and warm shelter," he said. "This is the best animal shelter in Southern California."
Veterinarians are treating Trouble for a possible case of mange, he added.
"What are you protecting them from?" he demanded. "Whatever disease Trouble has he got while he was in there."
Since the dogs were impounded, they have both lost weight, Anderson said. Trouble has become downright emaciated, he said.
The dogs have been well-fed and received the "best possible" medical treatment, McNall said, in a facility that includes a hot-weather misting system and plant-lined dog runs.
Pattini, who delivers documents for an attorney service, moved in with some shots of her own.
"I see so many dogs in the nicer areas running loose," she said. "Why do your trucks go up and down Colorado Boulevard? If someone's got a dog under control, sitting down . . ."
"Tell that to the mother whose daughter's face will be deformed for the rest of her life because an unleashed dog bit her," McNall countered.
By the accounts of those familiar with Anderson, "Trouble" and "Hounder" are exceedingly well-behaved dogs, and Anderson treats them with selfless devotion.
"Their bowl is never empty," one friend said.
"The minute I drop the leash, your guys come around the corner and give me a ticket," Anderson said.
"You can't hold a leash 100% of the time," Pattini said.
It's not harassment, insisted Susan Niemeyer, the Humane Society's director of operations. "We're not going after any particular group of people," she said. "We're bound by a city contract."
Granville Nixon, another homeless man who owns a dog, said he had been warned that he must hold on to his dog's leash, but he said he had never been ticketed.
The Humane Society has gone out of its way to help homeless people with pets, giving them donated food and treating the animals' illnesses without charge, Niemeyer said.
"We want David to have his dogs back," she said. "We just want the judge to impress upon David that he must comply with city ordinances."
Anderson is already suitably impressed, he said.
"When I get my dogs back, I'm leaving Pasadena," he said.