A lifelong lover of dogs who says she lives in fear of them now is asking the Imperial Beach City Council to ban pit bulls along the shoreline.
Caesarina Kelley planned to present a petition of some 50 names to the council at its regularly scheduled meeting last night (Jan. 15).
Kelley, her daughter, and a four-year-old poodle mix named Simon that her daughter owns, tussled with a pit bull on the beach on December 22. Both women and Simon required emergency care.
The incident took place around noontime on a stretch of beach near a jetty where the borders blur between the cities of Imperial Beach and Coronado. A naval communications installation nicknamed “the elephant cage” is nearby, as is the YMCA Surf Camp. Especially in the off-season, dogs are often seen running free on this section of beach.
As Kelley recalls, Simon was unleashed, chasing balls of kelp around, when it approached a dachshund and a pit bull, both being held on leashes by a woman on the beach. The pit bull also wore a muzzle. Other unleashed dogs joined the get-together.
As Simon sniffed around, the pit strained at its leash, broke free, somehow shook off the muzzle, and went for the poodle, which wound up between its jaws. Kelley said her daughter forced her knee onto the pit bull’s neck while, with Kelley' s help, she dragged the dog into the water up to its head, where it let go of the poodle. Simon lost several teeth while trying to break free of the dog’s jaws.
Animal-control officers paid visits to the owners of both Simon and the pit bull the next day. Later, authorities ordered the pit owner to carry liability for the dog on her home-insurance policy for $500,000 minimum. They also ordered that the pit bull be neutered.
Kelley said pit bulls — and other potentially unruly big dogs — should be banned from the Imperial Beach shores "in the interest of public safety." She's also advocating mandatory insurance for dog owners and a hike in the local licensing fees for dogs that have not been neutered or spayed. Right now, she said in phone interviews and by email, she has "hopelessness and a feeling of being trapped" in the house with her two dogs, afraid that venturing onto the nearby beach might bring another encounter with an unruly canine.
"I'm getting a lot of support,” Kelley wrote in an email. "We just had our dog's outer stitches removed…. The inner stitches in his gums and mouth are gut and will melt eventually. The poor little dog had his lower jaw ripped out and lost his lower front teeth."
After they took the dog to the vet, mother and daughter went to the emergency room at the Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center. They were there for three hours, said Kelley. They were given dry clothing and then treated for an assortment of cuts and bruises.
Kelley's daughter, who was visiting from Bakersfield, where she works for the Kern County jails in the mental-health field, does massage therapy part-time for extra income, and her hands are too injured for her to be able to do that work right now. Kelley teaches and plays piano professionally; she said she still has hand pain and a swollen finger.
Medical and vet bills aren't fully tallied, but they amount to several thousand dollars so far, said Kelley.
On January 15, Kelley said she got a call from the pit bull owner's insurance company and was offered $100,000 to settle. Kelley said she is consulting her attorney about it.