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Man Who Fatally Beat Dog Charged With Cruelty : Crime: Father, whose son was bitten by animal, faces misdemeanor count. Family sues pet owner and two businesses near where attack on boy occurred.

August 09, 1995|DAVID REYES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

HUNTINGTON BEACH — A man who beat a dog to death with a baseball bat for attacking his son was charged on Tuesday with animal cruelty, on the same day that he and his wife sued the dog's owner.

Alan Roberts, 29, a roofer, was charged with a misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $20,000 fine, a spokesman for the Orange County district attorney's office said.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday August 10, 1995 Orange County Edition Metro Part B Page 3 Orange County Focus Desk 1 inches; 26 words Type of Material: Correction
Dog mauling--A story Wednesday about charges against a man who allegedly beat a dog to death after it mauled his son misstated the toddler's age. Andrew Morton-Roberts is 19 months old.

On July 30, Roberts had stopped at the Java Jungle Coffee House to use the restroom while his wife, Stacey Morton, and their 9-month-old son, Andrew, waited in the parking lot. An 8-month-old Akita-chow mix attacked the child, locking its jaw on his face for about five seconds, witnesses said.

Andrew received about 60 stitches, mostly on his face, at Huntington Beach Medical Center.

An hour after the attack, Roberts drove back to the neighborhood with a baseball bat and clubbed the Akita 15 times while the dog was tied to a fence, police said. The dog died at the veterinary hospital.

Roberts' suit, filed in Orange County Superior Court, names Java Jungle and the Supreme Donuts, adjacent businesses, and the dog's owner, April Wyld, 28, of Huntington Beach.

Roberts' attorney, Timothy J. Ryan, said the child "is getting better. . . . Fortunately, he had a very well-respected plastic surgeon at the hospital when he was brought in."

More surgeries are planned for the boy, who also is suffering psychologically from the mauling, Ryan said.

Roberts and his family, who moved out of their Huntington Beach home temporarily after the attack because of threatening phone calls, have returned home, Ryan said.

The dog's owner referred calls to Orange County People for Animals, a private animal activist organization in Irvine that has urged criminal prosecution of Roberts.

"We can understand a parent's concern and anger," said Ava Park, the group's spokeswoman, "but this was a vicious, inhumane beating by Roberts." He "was venting his uncontrollable anger when other methods of dealing with the situation were available to him."

Huntington Beach police have received numerous calls, some from people angry with Roberts and others upset with Wyld for letting her dog roam freely.

Roberts' suit alleges that Wyld should have known that her dog's size, 65 to 75 pounds, and breed made it dangerous, Ryan said.

Lori Burtch, manager at Java Jungle, was incredulous when told that the Roberts family had filed a lawsuit naming the coffeehouse as a defendant.

"Why are they suing us when the dog was out on the loose?" Burtch said.

A sales clerk at Supreme Donuts who declined to identify himself or the store's owner asked: "How can they sue us? This is between the parents and the boy and the dog's owner."

But Roberts' attorney said both businesses were named as defendants because they had an obligation under the law to provide safe premises.

"It's not clear whether the actual incident occurred at Java Jungle or Supreme," Ryan said, "so to protect my clients' rights, I named them both until I find out which one is liable."

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