TURLOCK — Bolt the dog has a new court date and new attorney.
Bolt's owner, Turlock resident Dan Mendonca, has hired San Francisco animal law specialist Bruce Wagman to represent him in his case against the city. The hearing, which was delayed from last month, is set for March 8. Mendonca and his family also have started working with the animal advocacy group Akita Angels.
The 3½-year-old Alaskan malamute was sentenced to be put down by the city in late November after reportedly biting two women on the face in separate incidents in the fall. Mendonca has been fighting for Bolt's life since the dog was impounded by animal services Nov. 7.
Wagman is recognized nationally for his animal rights practice and has worked for the Animal Legal Defense Fund. He took over from Modesto attorney Carl Combs, who handled the successful petition to have Bolt's euthanization put on hold until the hearing could be held. Bolt had been scheduled to be put down Dec. 11.
Wagman, who took on Bolt's case two weeks ago, said he is in the process of collecting and reviewing all the documents.
"I do hope to be in touch with the city soon and talk with them and work together with them," Wagman said. "I hope to get up to speed and figure out what can be done to see if a satisfactory ending can be reached beforehand. Otherwise, we're going to court."
The hearing had been scheduled Jan. 16 as a civil case in Stanislaus County Superior Court. But the case has been continued because the city was not able to provide Mendonca's attorney with requested administrative records.
Turlock City Attorney Phaedra Norton would not say whether the requested documents have been handed over. She said because of the pending litigation, the city would be making no further comments regarding the case.
Mendonca and family posted on their Facebook page, Save Bolt, that the change in attorney was made because of Wagman's expertise, credentials and reputation. They say a review of the case gave them insight that "Bolt needed a different level of legal representation."
Christine Burton, founder of Akita Angels out of Santa Clarita, was among those who advised the family to switch to Wagman. Burton said her dog advocacy group works with Akitas and other dominant breeds to provide support and counseling nationwide.
The group has worked with more than 400 families over the past two years and has experience in cases where pets were sentenced to be euthanized. Burton said she already has had a conversation with Turlock Animal Services and the city about the case.
"I got involved because I have some pretty big concerns about how things were handled," Burton said. "I don't think the dog or Daniel has been given due process."
Burton said she has not seen the city's transcripts for the administrative hearing, overseen by Turlock Fire Chief Tim Loh-man, where Bolt was determined to be vicious and sentenced to death. She said the key question is whether Bolt was provoked.
She said she believes Bolt should be returned to Mendonca with restrictions, including that he be kenneled and muzzled and that Mendonca take out an insurance policy.
The family, which has raised more than $6,100 through online fund raising, posted on its site that it still is $4,000 in debt from its legal fight to save Bolt.