CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA -Nearly every day for the past three years, Sandi York has madea 30-mile round trip from her home in Citrus Heightsto visit her dog on death row at the Sacramento County animal shelter.
York, 69, a retired optician, is waging an unprecedented battle to save the 8-year-old female boxer mix named Bandit from euthanasia.
"I need her," York said. "She is my best friend."
An administrative hearing officer ordered Bandit be destroyed following an April 10, 2010 attack on a mail carrier who had rung the doorbell at York's home to get a signature for a certified letter.
York wasn't home at the time and a roommate allowed Bandit and another dog to push through the steel security door to get to the mail carrier.
Although the bite inflicted by Banditdid not require stitches, a transcript of the vicious dog hearing indicates an animal control officer recommended euthanasia based on Bandit's aggressive behavior and prior history.
In 2009, Bandit was blamed for bitingan 8-year-old boy riding a bike in the neighborhood.There's no indication from the bite report the child required medical attention.
York challenges the accuracy of the 2009 report because she was not able to speak to the child's family, and she said Bandit only lunged at the mail carrier because he had agitated the two dogs by repeatedly ringing the bell.
"She's a fabulous dog.She's not an aggressive dog," York insisted.
The second dog involved in the attack on the mail carrier was allowed to return home with special conditions.
Sacramento County Animal Care and Control Director Dave Dickinson said Bandit continued to be aggressive when she was impounded following the mail carrier attack, but he acknowledgedher temperament has improved during her three years in custody.
Dickinson said, however,the improved behavior is not grounds for the dog's release.
"We already had two victims. We don't want to put a third victim at risk," he said.
Following the euthanasia order on May 6, 2010, San Francisco attorney Christine Garcia stepped in at no charge to file an appeal in the Sacramento County Superior Court.
Garcia claimed a vicious dog determinationresulting in euthanasiarequires more than a small puncture wound.
"There was a mistake of law and fact," Garcia said."There was no evidence presented to prove severe injury."
Garcia was unsuccessful in getting a judge to overrule the administrative hearing officer and is now taking the case to the California 3rd District Court of Appeal.
The Sacramento CountyCounsel's office did not respond to repeated requests for an accounting of hours it has spent defending the shelter's position.
In the meantime, Pleasantonanimal advocatePat Workman has launched a campaign to save Bandit through public pressure.
The Saving Bandit Facebook pageboasts more than 4,700 followers.
"People from all over the world are rooting for Bandit and rooting for Team Bandit to get this done and bring her home," Workman said.
Dickinson counters that the Saving Bandit campaign feeds on emotion, not fact.
"I'm wondering if anybody out there trying to give support to Bandit, if they were attacked by two dogs and that happened to them, what their feelings would be."
Dickinson said he's unaware of any previous case in which a condemned animal was kept alive for three years by a persistent owner. He said Bandit would not be euthanized as long as a legal appeal is pending.
"I'll leave it up to the courts to decide," Dickinson said."It's not for me to get in the middle of it at this point."
York is billed $106 monthly for Bandit's care and said she will continue to visit the dog every day the shelter is open.
"I miss her desperately," York said. "This animal does not deserve to die."
By George Warren, GWarren@news10.net