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from The Sacramento Bee


6-year-old dies after dog attack

By Dorsey Griffith and Christine Vovakes -- Bee Staff Writers - (Published February 9, 2002)

Tehama County residents are mourning the death of a 6-year-old boy who was mauled by neighborhood dogs Thursday, less than four years after another local boy suffered a similar attack.

Genoe Alonzo Novach, a vibrant Red Bluff 6-year-old with beautiful eyes, was pronounced dead just before 10 p.m. Thursday.

"There are no words to describe the sadness," his kindergarten teacher said Friday.

Genoe's death came at the end of a six-hour rescue effort that began at St. Elizabeth Community Hospital in Red Bluff, where scores of nurses and doctors worked in shifts to keep him alive, and ended less than an hour after he arrived at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.

Genoe had suffered severe head and facial injuries, as well as lacerations and puncture wounds on the rest of his body.

The attack took place in a back yard across from the boy's home on Palermo Street, a narrow rural road crowded with houses just south of Red Bluff -- about 20 miles from Rancho Tehama, where Cody Fox, then 11, was mauled in 1998.

Three dogs suspected in the mauling are in custody; their owner has not been cited.

The attack is under investigation by the Tehama County animal control unit and the District Attorney's Office.

The attack has devastated Tehama County residents and officials, especially those involved in the case of Cody Fox, who lost an ear and an arm after his encounter with dogs trained by their owner to attack.

"We are completely shocked and in disbelief that this ... has happened again," said District Attorney Gregg Cohen, who lobbied for Cody's Law, with its stiffer penalties for dog owners who train their animals to attack, fight or kill.

Gov. Gray Davis signed the law in 1999.

"We were all proud to watch our kids grow up here," said one of many neighborhood residents who gathered on Palermo Street Friday to talk about the tragedy. "This is just too awful."

St. Elizabeth nurses met Friday afternoon with a counselor to talk about the ordeal; many of them had also treated Cody.

The dark-haired Genoe, who was known affectionately as "Gonzo," was tearfully remembered by his Metteer Elementary School teacher, Joy Ferraris, as an eager, trouble-free student who enjoyed reading with his parents.

"He was a typical boy, and very curious," she said. "He liked to do lots of things outside. Inside, he loved Legos and building things and playing with cars."

The son of Antonio and Laura Novach, Genoe was the youngest of three boys; his brothers are in junior and senior high school.

Ferraris and a classroom aide shared several photos of the boy, including one taken with his grandfather for "Grandparents' Day," one with a gingerbread man at Christmas, another at the class's teddy bear picnic.

Wiping away tears, Ferraris noted the unusually low and gravelly voice of a boy who loved to sing.

"He'll forever be my kindergarten student," the teacher said.

Officials, meanwhile, are trying to piece together the events of Thursday, when the boy apparently went across the street to play. This is what they know:

On Thursday afternoon, Genoe was apparently playing alone in a neighbor's back yard. The owner of the house discovered the child about 3 p.m. after seeing two pug-Rottweiler-mix dogs in the yard chewing on something, Clay said.

That witness later identified the animals as belonging to another neighbor, Charles Dean Schneider.

The owner of the home chased the dogs away and then fetched the child's father.

Animal control officers took into custody the two dogs -- one a gold-colored female and the other a dark-furred male -- as well as their purebred, registered Rottweiler sire, also belonging to Schneider. They also took three other neighborhood dogs.

An analysis of their stomach contents ruled out the three other dogs, which were released to their owners Friday afternoon.

Saliva samples of Schneider's dogs will be tested, said Tehama County Sheriff Clay Parker.

"We know the two pug mixes were involved because of the eyewitness and the stomach contents of one of those dogs," said Parker. "Since the owner had three dogs, we're being cautious and will wait until we have the DNA tested before we release the third dog."

Schneider, who could not be reached for comment, allowed his home to be searched for possible evidence that the dogs were trained to attack, Parker said.

"Everything points to the opposite of that," he said.

If Schneider were found to have trained the dogs to attack, he could face felony charges under Cody's Law.

If that is not the case, he still could face felony charges under another law passed last year, said Cohen, the district attorney.

That law makes it a felony for a dog owner to allow a "mischievous animal" to go at large if it kills a human being who has taken reasonable precautions.

The county also has animal control ordinances that may apply and that can result in tickets, fines and in some cases, jail time, county officials said.

"Dogs in the county have to be either on a leash or within immediate control if they're off (February 9, 8:22 a.m. PST) property, or property that (the dog owner) has consent to be on," said Mark Black, director of animal control.

Tehama County Animal Control veterinarian Mark Dierberger said he was not aware of any complaints about the two pug-Rottweiler dogs, which weigh 30 to 35 pounds each.

Here are some SPCA tips to minimize the risk of a dog attack:

* Never look directly into the eyes of an angry dog; look sideways at the animal with your head hung low. Slouch a little bit like you are browbeaten, as another dog would look in a submissive posture.

* Never run away from an angry dog; stand still. Let it come up and sniff you.

* Do not put your hand on top of the dog's head. Reach underneath the dog's head, instead. On top is a threatening gesture.

* If the dog does attack, don't run. Drop to the ground, cover your neck and roll into a ball to defend yourself.

Copyright © The Sacramento Bee

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