Fox was a beloved eight-year-old, long-haired Chihuahua visiting from Pennsylvania when he met Terry, a much larger, two-year-old Siberian Husky from San Bernardino.
The improbable Feb. 1 rendezvous in Anaheim didn’t go well inside the Canyon RV Park.
Fox died after being bitten by Terry and now the decease’s owner—Wade Heintzelman, who witnessed the killing—is demanding courthouse compensation, claiming his pet had been the “equivalent of a child” to him after raising it from a puppy.
The incident began innocently enough. Heintzelman says he was walking Fox at around dusk when an unleashed Terry ambushed them. The husky knocked him down before his pet became the target. Terry then grabbed Fox with his mouth and chomped down.
“When Terry let go of Fox, Heintzelman picked up Fox and rushed him to the Orange County Pet Emergency Clinic,” a pending lawsuit recounts. “Unfortunately, Fox passed away in Heintzelman’s arms prior to arriving at the clinic.”
According to Heintzelman, Terry’s master, Mohammad Alam, who had been staying at the same RV Park, is guilty of gross negligence, intentional infliction of emotional distress and wrongful injury to an animal.
His lawyer, David Miller, notes that signs at the park declare, “Pets on leash only” and a county ordinance requires dog owners to exercise “due care” in public spaces by using either a chain or a leash of no longer than six feet as a restraint.
“At the time the defendant willfully released Terry and Bear (Alam’s other Siberian Husky) onto public property he knew that there were other dogs on the property to which Terry and Bear could pose a great risk of harm or death,” the lawsuit alleges. “The plaintiff is informed and believes that [Alam] knew that Terry had tendencies that would present a severe risk of harm to much smaller dogs, such as Fox.”
Heintzelman claims initial efforts to locate Alam failed but asserts that Terry’s master eventually offered what was considered a pittance for animal cruelty.
“[Alam’s] representative poured salt in Mr. Heintzelman’s open wound by offering to pay just $245 as compensation, a gesture that was a malicious degradation of Fox’s value and that Alam knew or should have known would severely exacerbate his mental suffering that he had caused,” the lawsuit states.
James Zurawski, Alam’s lawyer, tells a different story of the incident, claiming that Fox ran at Terry, who hadn’t been intentionally unleashed but rather had somehow broken free without his client’s knowledge.
Zurawski is working to kill the case in the early stages, proclaiming that damages for wrongful injury to animals “are contrary to current law.”
“It cannot be the policy of California law to grant greater rights in relations with pets than it does in relations with children and other human loved ones, and there is no authority supporting such an extension of liability,” according to Zurawski’s argument.
During a Sept. 30 hearing, Orange County Superior Court Judge David Hoffer called the lawsuit in its present form legally “confusing.” He noted, for example, that it was unclear if Heintzelman is seeking damages because he was knocked down or had witnessed Fox’s death, leaving him without the pet’s companionship. Saying he believes the plaintiff can fix defects in his complaint, the judge gave him 20 days to file an amended lawsuit.
CNN-featured investigative reporter R. Scott Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; obtained one of the last exclusive prison interviews with Charles Manson disciple Susan Atkins; won inclusion in Jeffrey Toobin’s The Best American Crime Reporting for his coverage of a white supremacist’s senseless murder of a beloved Vietnamese refugee; launched multi-year probes that resulted in the FBI arrests and convictions of the top three ranking members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department; and gained praise from New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing entrenched Southern California law enforcement corruption.