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Owners' Hackles Rise at Animal Control Policies : Pets: Some citizens are outraged after being cited by the Pasadena Humane Society for alleged violations of the city's leash law. They say the dogs were under control.

April 15, 1993|EDMUND NEWTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PASADENA — Willard Pugh was leading his two unleashed dogs from the kennel at the rear of his property to the front door when he was confronted by an animal control officer.

"The officer came up and said, 'I'm citing you for having dogs at large and for not having licenses,' " said Pugh, a prominent character actor who has appeared in 19 movies, including "The Color Purple" and "Rage in Harlem."

When Pugh irately refused to sign the citation that animal control Officer John Jurman issued, Jurman summoned Pasadena Police Officer Mary Fahler, who arrested Pugh. He was released four hours later after posting a $500 bond.

"They had no reason to bother me in my own yard," said Pugh, who still simmers when he recalls the incident. "Why don't they go out and get dogs that are biting people?"

It was one of a series of recent incidents stemming from efforts by the Pasadena Humane Society to enforce the city's strict leash law, which requires dogs in public places--including unfenced yards--to be leashed and held at all times.

The five Pasadena Humane Society officers are obligated to issue tickets when they see unleashed dogs, said Steven McNall, executive director of the society.

"If they see an unleashed dog, it would be irresponsible of them not to issue a citation," he said. In Pugh's case, McNall said, the actor became abusive, prompting Jurman to call for police back-up. But some Pasadena residents contend that the Humane Society's aggressive enforcement of the law has become more of a problem than the crimes that the officers are seeking to stamp out.

One resident of a quiet neighborhood in the city's northeast section said a Humane Society officer had recently entered her yard, where she and her elderly dog were both sleeping, and tried to seize the animal.

"I didn't know that they had the right to wake up a dog and drag him off the lawn," B. J. Rack said.

Rack said she was able to dissuade the officer by taking her dog into the house.

Pugh, who faces charges of having unleashed dogs and of resisting arrest, says she plans to sue the city and the Humane Society for a civil-liberties violation.

"Are we that broke that we have to harass good citizens?" asked Pugh, who had to pay $71 in boarding and licensing fees before the Humane Society would release her dogs.

Officials of the Humane Society, who are under contract with the city to enforce the leash law, say they often must weigh the safety of pets and the well-being of the general public against the rights of dog owners.

"Not a day goes by when we don't see a dog who's been hit by a car and an owner standing there, crying and saying, 'My God, my dog never leaves my property!' " McNall said.

Humane Society officers issued 482 citations last year, more than half of them for leash law violations, McNall said. Often, the officers were responding to complaints from joggers or letter carriers.

"We get a lot of complaints from the Post Office," he said. "Sometimes the mailman will refuse to deliver mail to a house because dogs are sitting on the front porch."

Other recent cases have involved a lawyer and a homeless man.

On March 12, Officer Endel Jurman--a state humane officer working for the Pasadena Humane Society, and John Jurman's brother--took lawyer Gary Jeffries into custody in front of Jeffries' home in an unincorporated part of Northeast Pasadena after Jeffries sought to prevent the officer from seizing a neighbor's elderly dog.

"Evidently the maid left the door open, and the dog walked out," said Jeffries, a former Pasadena deputy city attorney. "The maid was pursuing the dog when it walked past a Humane Society officer."

Jeffries contends that Endel Jurman "became very aggressive" after Jeffries and his wife let the dog into their own home.

"He was acting like a storm trooper," Jeffries said. "He proceeded to lecture me on the law, and there was a heated exchange. Then he said, 'All right, you're under arrest.' "

John Jurman, who also responded, handcuffed Jeffries, the lawyer said, but a Pasadena police officer who was summoned to the scene subsequently released him. Jeffries is scheduled to be arraigned in Municipal Court this week on charges of interfering with a peace officer.

McNall said the Jurman brothers were trying to rescue a cat from a storm drain when the dog passed the scene and was held by the officers.

"Mr. Jeffries went to take the dog, which he is not allowed to do," McNall said. "Our officer stepped in. You can't have a stranger taking custody of someone else's animal."

On March 13, Endel Jurman seized two dogs belonging to a homeless man, who had tied them to a tree so he could use a restroom in a Pasadena restaurant.

The state humane officer briefly handcuffed David Anderson on Colorado Boulevard, in the city's Old Pasadena area, where he kept his dogs sitting next to him on a chair. One of the dogs subsequently died of an intestinal virus in the Humane Society pound.

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