Owners Feel Brunt of Public Unease
Fatal mauling unleashes
Rubenstein, Chronicle Staff Writer
Bay Area dog owners are paying the price for
public nervousness after the fatal dog mauling in San
Dog owners report that since Diane Whipple died in
a dog attack at her San Francisco apartment on
Friday, passers-by seem increasingly ill at ease
"Dog owners are a little paranoid anyway," said
George Alvarez, who was walking his three dogs on
Bernal Hill yesterday. "But people who don't like
dogs are going to use this tragedy as an excuse to
make things more difficult."
Several dog walkers said strangers were giving
them a wider berth or offering unsolicited comments
"Hey, you have to leash that dog!" an angry stranger
hollered at a dog walker in Walnut Creek
In Miraloma Park in San Francisco, where dog
owners bring their animals every morning, a
Labrador retriever named Titus was fresh from a
scolding from a woman down the street.
"The woman was yelling that she couldn't walk past
my dog to get to the bus stop," said Titus' owner,
Thom Yeamans. "We weren't in her way at all. It
Dog owners who consider themselves responsible
say they hope the frenzy blows over quickly.
"There's very little middle ground in this town when
it comes to dogs," said actor Brian Yates Sharber,
who was walking his shepherd mix, Benny. "People
love them or they don't. And I'm afraid that people
who don't like dogs will use this tragedy as an
excuse to speak out, or to become even more
"People just need to calm down," said Judy Kurtz,
who was walking her retriever, Emma. "I hope
every dog is not blamed for what one dog did."
The tragedy came at a particularly unfortunate time,
dog owners say, since the Golden Gate National
Recreation Area rangers last week granted a four-
month reprieve from a proposed ban on off-leash
dog walking on several of its beaches and parks in
San Francisco. Rangers have said they favor
revoking the decades-old policy allowing off-leash
A GGNRA spokesman said that letter writers to the
GGNRA before the tragedy favored off-leash
walking but that, since Whipple's death, the letters
were running against.
Few San Francisco landlords allow dogs in rental
units, but those will probably decrease, said Eric
Andresen, the owner of a company that manages 2,
000 San Francisco apartments on behalf of 135
At present, he said, only one of those landlords
allows dogs in his apartments.
"This tragedy will definitely further restrict those
owners who may have been inclined to accept
dogs," he said.
Andresen said landlords generally allowed pets
when the rental market was soft. Even when the
current hot rental market turns around, he said, the
Pacific Heights tragedy cannot help but discourage
landlords from allowing dogs.
Insurers said they did not expect the tragedy to
change the underwriting of homeowners' or renters'
policies with regard to dogs.
Injuries caused by dogs are generally covered under
liability policies, according to Bronwyn Hogan,
spokeswoman for the California State Automobile
Association, a major underwriter of homeowner
and renter insurance. She said policyholders with
problem dogs were told that their dogs would be
excluded from their policy or coverage would be
"One case, however tragic, would not alter the
overall insurance climate," she said. "There would
have to be a pattern."
Irresponsible dog owners, not irresponsible dogs,
are usually the source of the problem, said San
Francisco Police Sgt. William Herndon, who is in
charge of conducting hearings on dog complaints.
"I'd like to put a leash on the owners, not the dogs,"
Unruly or threatening dogs should be reported to
the Department of Animal Care and Control, he
said. Such dogs can face restrictions such as
muzzles, restraints, mandatory obedience classes or
Aggressive breeds, such as pit bulls and the Presa
Canario that was implicated in Whipple's death, are
often owned by "cowardly people," he said. Even
confiscation of such dogs does not end the problem.
E-mail Steve Rubenstein at
San Francisco Chronicle Page A20
to Animal Attack Files Index
a Friend about the Animal Attack Files