Dog given to rescue group in deal between owner, city

mrowland@modbee.comMarch 11, 2013 

— Bolt the dog is free, released to a Southern California rescue group earlier this month in a settlement between his owner, Daniel Mendonca, and the city of Turlock.

A lawsuit had been filed and a hearing scheduled for March 8 in Stanislaus Superior Court to spare Bolt, who had been deemed vicious by the city and was slated to die after biting two women on the face last fall. The 3½-year-old Alaskan malamute had been impounded with Turlock Animal Services since Nov. 7.

In the settlement, the city agreed to release Bolt to a rescue organization. Mendonca agreed to drop the case against the city, relinquish ownership of Bolt and pay all costs associated with his adoption by the rescue agency.

The agency, whose name is not being released, agreed to disclose Bolt's history to any potential adoptive owners, never place him with anyone in Stanislaus County or with Mendonca and his relatives and to assume all risk and waive all liability to the city with regard to the dog.

Bolt's attorney, San Francisco animal rights lawyer Bruce Wagman, said the decision is a win-win for Mendonca and the city.

"In a perfect end, Bolt would be home with Daniel. We don't think he deserved the 'vicious' designation," Wagman said. "But those were factual issues we'd have to fight about. Daniel made the altruistic decision to give up his interests and sacrifice his for Bolt's."

City Manager Roy Wasden said he was pleased with the peaceful end to the case. Bolt's saga had caused a firestorm of public interest since Mendonca took the case public in early December. Supporters on both sides had contacted the city and raised their voices online.

The City Council approved the settlement in closed session Feb. 26 in a unanimous 5-0 vote.

"We are pleased. It is one of those things that comes with the territory and we think it is a good resolution and we feel good about it," Wasden said. "I've owned dogs and had dogs as part of my life. I know now how attached people are."

Bolt, a 150-pound black-and-white bear of a dog, bit 20-year-old Turlock resident McKenzie Leedom on the face while she was at Mendonca's home over last Halloween weekend. The wound required at least eight stitches.

Mistaken identity?

A subsequent investigation by Turlock Animal Services found Bolt also bit another woman, 20-year-old Macie Gilstrap, on the face Sept. 30 at Mendonca's home, requiring a staple on her chin. Mendonca contends it was Bolt's brother, Milo, who bit Gilstrap.

Both women were friends of Mendonca's before the incidents.

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