TURLOCK — Daniel Mendonca said he spends most Saturdays at Turlock Animal Services, visiting the dog the city wants to euthanize and Mendonca wants to bring home.
Bolt, a 3½-year-old Alaskan malamute, is being held at the shelter until a Jan. 16 hearing set in Stanislaus County Superior Court. City officials scheduled the dog for euthanization following an investigation after Bolt bit two Turlock women in separate incidents.
A judge earlier this month issued a stay until the Jan. 16 hearing, when attorneys on both sides will make their cases.
In the meantime, Mendonca's attorneys want dog trainer Lisa Moore to perform an assessment on Bolt to determine whether he is likely to bite again if spared.
Moore said Saturday the seven-part aggression test, called the Safety Assessment for Evaluating Rehoming, or SAFER, is recognized by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
"It allows them to identify safe and adoptable animals," she said. Assisted by another trainer who would record video of the exercises, Moore said she would test Bolt's response to sounds and various other stimuli to determine how predictable his future behavior is.
And the test, she said, would be available to both sides in the case.
"I haven't been hired by anyone," she said. She also hasn't looked into the details of the case in order to keep an objective view.
So far, however, Moore hasn't been able to get in to see Bolt. City Manager Roy Wasden said Saturday the city has its reasons for not allowing her access to the dog, but he couldn't discuss them because the case is in litigation. He referred questions to City Attorney Phaedra Norton, who said the court denied Mendonca's request for an expert examination.
Mendonca, 26, has been fighting for Bolt since Wasden approved a recommendation by Turlock Fire Chief Tim Lohman that the dog be euthanized for the two biting incidents.
Macie Gilstrap and McKenzie Leedom, both 20, said the dog bit them for no reason while they were at Mendonca's house. Gilstrap, who was bitten Sept. 29, required a staple in her chin; Leedom, who was bitten Oct. 28, had at least eight stitches to close punctures on both sides of her face. Both were treated at Emanuel Medical Center.
Officials impounded the dog Nov. 7.
At the hearing earlier this month, when he ordered the stay, Judge Timothy Salter also ordered Mendonca to pay the costs of boarding Bolt. Wasden said city officials have determined that cost to be $6 per day.
Mendonca said while he would like to bring Bolt home, he also would be open to the idea of giving the dog to a rescue group.
"Anything is better than this or death," he said Saturday, standing outside the fenced-in cage where Bolt is kept.
The fight has received widespread attention, with a "Save Bolt" Facebook page up to more than 7,000 "likes," though there are also some vocal opinions on the other side of the matter.
Mendonca said he had no idea that would happen. "I never thought it would get this big," he said. "The support is amazing."
Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter, @pattyguerra.