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Where did donations to Charlie go?

David Gizzarelli took in more than $17,000 in donations from big-hearted dog lovers in what he described as an attempt to save his dog Charlie, who was deemed dangerous after attacking a National Park Service horse.

But his attorney says Gizzarelli is unable to help out with the $9,000-plus tab for veterinary care, feeding and shelter that Charlie, an American Staffordshire terrier, has received since last August, when he was taken into the custody of animal control in San Francisco.

Apparently the $17,000 that was donated was spent on attorney fees, paying for the horse’s vet bills and “other living expenses.” That’s what Gizzarelli’s new attorney says, adding that his client can’t afford to help pay the bill and is currently sleeping in his car.

On Monday, U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins ordered Gizzarelli to pay  anyway — specifically, half of the costs for boarding and treating Charlie since the incident.

Gizzarelli is still raising money to “help save Charlie” — via a Facebook page and his Help Save Charlie website — even though he has relinquished ownership of the dog, who is now in foster care and will likely end up in an adoptive home or sanctuary.

Until his court appearance, he had not provided any accounting of where the donated money went, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

Charlie has been in the custody of Animal Care and Control in San Francisco since August, when he was  deemed “vicious and dangerous” by the police department. The cost for housing  him and providing veterinary care for an earlier injury totaled $9,808 as of Monday’s hearing.

Gizzarelli, in an earlier settlement, agreed to give up custody of Charlie and attend a hearing to discuss payment for Charlie’s care.

But he kept selling “Help Save Charlie” merchandise and collecting donations even after that. And while Charlie could probably still use help — he hasn’t been deemed adoptable yet — it appears little if any of the donated money has gone for the dog.

Questions during Monday’s hearing revolved around the amount of legal fees Gizzarelli paid to two attorneys, and $3,000 his attorney said was spent on “food,  transportation and housing” — apparently for the human, not the dog.

Gizzarelli’s attorney, Orestes Cross, said his client has no money. “My client is on social welfare, living on $422 a month and sleeping out of  his car,”  told the judge during the hearing. “He fought the fight because he cares about his dog.”

Rebecca Katz, director of Animal Care and Control, says some donors to Charlie are likely upset. “I don’t believe those who contributed expected that money to go toward personal expenses,” she said. Since the settlement, Charlie has been in foster care. According to Katz, he needs several more months of training before he can be considered for adoption or placed in a sanctuary.

Gizzarelli faced federal assault charges after the attack on the police horse, but according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office those have been dropped.

(Photo: Help Save Charlie Facebook page)


Comment from melanie
Time April 25, 2013 at 1:35 pm

I was sitting in the courtroom when Gizzareli’s lawyer admitted to his client spending the money on “personal items”. I also heard from a source that some of those items were pizza, tires, electronics and phone cards. In the courtroom it was discussed that Gizzarelli had spent $2,500 on his 2nd lawyer and $4,800 on his third (for 2 court appearances). So in total he spent $7,300 in legal fees to fight having to pay anything for the care of HIS dog.

Comment from Susan Galbraith
Time April 25, 2013 at 6:55 pm

Well, this guy has done nothing but lie to get money from people. $17,000 could have saved a lot of dogs that were genuinely in danger of being killed. Instead well-meaning people donated money that he spent on himself.

Comment from SWEET
Time April 27, 2013 at 1:51 am

$9000 for care of a shelter dog for 9 months?!!!! $1000 a month?!!! Get serious people!!! Animal Control will literally rob and rape a citizen when they have seized their animals. Our local animal control seized 19 thoroughbreds 3 years ago. They collected over $10,000 in donations then sued the owner for $20,000 or he could not get his animal back. The crooks here are Animal Control and the lawyers and the scapegoat is the man trying to keep his dog. Who gives a shit if he bought pizza. People, OPEN your eyes!

Comment from Deb G
Time May 4, 2013 at 4:55 pm

I agree with SWEET, who cares if he ate pizza and bought tires for his car? $9, 000 is a ridiculous amount for 9 months of care. Especially when so much of the time Charlie wasn’t even allowed out of his cage, no walks or personal attention.Instead of running up a bill like that, Charlie should have been returned to his home.

Comment from Jo Baker
Time May 4, 2013 at 5:31 pm

I was in the hearing as well. It was obvious Gizzarelli was doing everything possible to avoid paying a cent for the dog he supposedly cares so much about. All he really cares about is finding angles to keep his scam going.

Comment from Gidget Church
Time May 4, 2013 at 5:48 pm

The money he owes also is to take care of an injury the dog received PRIOR To the attack on the police officer…the ex owner bragged about the attack in a tweet which was recently discovered by animal advocates. This will necessitate lifelong care as it was not taken care of at the time. There was evaluation and training that went into this dog. The SFACC is not the crook here, the ex owner is the crook. He continues to tell people there is a case when all the information and the actual transcript of the last hearing is available. The dog has moved on from his abusive situation and will now be safe. It’s not nice to fool good people who try to help…a lot of other animals could have been assisted … the money wasn’t to be spent on the human, but rather on the dog. Go ahead and raise money to support yourself (even though you are also collecting welfare so the taxpayers are already supporting you) but don’t tell people it is to get your dog back. That is a lie.

Comment from Elizabeth
Time May 4, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Many people choose to give to a good cause. But Charlie’s former owner claims he can still regain Charlie if people send their money, and this is not true. According to a KGO Radio Host who gave testimony in this case the ex-owner stated even before this fundraising began in January that he had already raised over 20,000 and under 30,000. So this money is entirely unaccounted for. Recently one of his own supporters suggested that in future any funds might better be donated directly to his attorney, thereby ending bickering about it. That is one smart person!

Comment from Mara
Time May 4, 2013 at 6:33 pm

This guy is such a loser, and the dog is lucky to be away from him.

Comment from jessica
Time May 4, 2013 at 6:44 pm

sweet- you must not be considering the costs included for treating an old injury to Charlie’s leg that he received attacking 5 cows just weeks before he attacked the police horse. gizzarelli tweeted about the attack on the cows and didn’t seek medical treatment for his dog, even though he said that Charlie “hurt his leg pretty badly”. the cost also includes the training Charlie has been undergoing from a professional trainer as Charlie obviously suffers from am exceptionally high prey drive. the settlement agreement the ex owner signed stipulated that he was to pay for half of Charlie’s care, while the tax payers foot the rest of the bil. now he’s saying he can’t pay any of it in spite of raising an admitted 17,000$ (we all know he received more than that as people also sent money directly to him, and he told tim of “the monty show” that he had raised over 20k, but less than 30k). so to recap- the ex owner knows his dog has high prey drive because he just attacked 5 cows weeks earlier, let’s his dog off leash anyway, in a public recreation area that’s patrolled by mounted officers, without even a collar to grab him if needed, he viciously attacks a policehorse, and then the owner fails to take responsibility claiming that’s there’s some huge conspiracy against him. meanwhile he’s fleecing 20k from unsuspecting animal lovers who donated to “help save Charlie” and he admits to spending 3k of this money on his own personal expenses aka “help save charlies ex owner”, not to mention the thousands he can’t account for. two guesses where that money went. not a dime of it actually went TO Charlie, that much we are sure of.

Comment from Kata Kimbe
Time May 4, 2013 at 6:49 pm

It’s obvious most people have not read the details of that fundraising. There is also a list of former supporters of Gizzarelli who donated in good faith and asked for their donations back when they realized he was scamming them. That is what this man does… lives off others and it is a disgrace that a able bodied man in his mid forties refuse to take any responsibility for the settlement he signed with his lawyer by his side (he keeps saying he was forced, but he was not because at the time he was represented by a very reputable animal rights lawyer). Gizzarelli admitted to the $17,000 in last Monday’s hearing… but we all know he has collected money other ways too… that are not included since he only ‘accounted’ for the Paypal income. Gizzarelli said in to a radio host early January that he has collected over $20K and this radio host signed an affidavit part of this case. So, however much the city and layers charges… none of that has to do with what this scoundrel gets away with. I say, hold him in contempt of court… then he won’t have to sleep in his car anymore. I am so fed up with people using and abusing the few resources we have. It’s unfortunate that he has so many gullible people still following him because they do not read the unbiased court records, and it seems they do not understand the word SETTLED. Pathetic. All the detailed info, without a bias, is out there… if you are interested. I know I am biased… I am for Charlie and his happiness and against swindlers.

Comment from jessica
Time May 4, 2013 at 7:07 pm

and he’s STILL collecting money for a dog he no longer owns and hasn’t since jan 11th! people! read the settlement. he’s NEVER getting Charlie back. this is soooo over, yet here we are going around and around in circles because the ex owner won’t admit that he sealed the deal as soon as he signed the settlement and keeps leading people to believe he’s found a way to re litigate the case which the settlement itself expressly prohibits!

Comment from Susan Galbraith
Time May 4, 2013 at 8:02 pm

Sweet, perhaps, you should read the transcript of the hearing. The $9,000 was not only for the care fo Charlie – it also included vets’ fees for the care of the injury that Charlie received when he was kicked by 5 cows in July (which the ex-owner had never had treated) and also training for Charlie. In fact the boarding expenses were only a small proportion of the total cost. And, I and many others, do care that of the $17,000 collected since January 11th (this amount does not include the thousands collected beofre then), roughly $7,000 is unaccounted for and $3,000 (according to his lawyer) was spent on his personal expenses. This is nothing less than a scam.

Comment from Teresa/Lin M.
Time May 4, 2013 at 8:09 pm

I would not of donated if i knew he was going to buy his girlfriend clothes, pizza, tires etc. My very large heart felt for him due to loving animals. I have asked for my money back because he wasted most of it on himself and girlfriend. He refuses to give me my money back, how sad when he said if anybody wants their money back just ask. You cannot run a blog, Facebook account etc out of your car so i do not see where he is homeless. Donating to him has made me so sceptical and am afraid to help other animal charities that are on the up and up. This has saddened me so much.

Comment from Matt
Time May 4, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Hey Sweet – $1000 month is $33 per day. Go try and find a dog boarding situation in San Francisco for less than that. Seriously. $9000 is MORE than fair – and the kicker is, Gizzarelli gets to stick the tax payers with HALF that bill. What a crook.

Comment from Matt
Time May 4, 2013 at 10:15 pm

An one more fact: The $17,000 raise were only from January 11th to April 11th. He’s admitted to raising thousands BEFORE that – funds he didn’t have to report at all. And The Monty Show testified under oath that Gizzarelli told him the total was between $20,000 and #30,000.

Comment from Teresa/Lin M.
Time May 5, 2013 at 12:10 pm

There is even a letter from Cesar Millan (Dog Whisperer) on ” Help save Charlie the real deal ” facebook page that Cesar has written declining to help Charlie’s former owner because of his attitude. The rescues that were called have declined also. The attorneys have backed out due to attitude and money being owed to them. This is not about Charlie anymore but about how much money can i keep getting from people because i do not want a real job, also i have a real bad attitude and no employer will hire me or keep my on, also i like to be the boss and am not a team player.

Comment from Elizabeth
Time May 5, 2013 at 1:37 pm

Sweet should know that if people want to buy the ex owner pizzas, lunches with his girlfriend, tires, and other “living expenses” that is fine. But then the plea on site should be “Hey, I gotta have some tires”. Not I am fighting to get my dog back.” Since the settlement no lawyer has filed re getting the dog back (I doubt there is one stupid enough to do so in this case). Just say “Could you send me money to my Pizza account?” Don’t say “there is a new high-power attorney interested but I need money.” People have a right to spend their money any way they choose. I have lost money recently in a dog scam myself. I feel very sensitive to it. I encourage people to spend their money close to home after careful investigation.

Comment from Marie
Time May 6, 2013 at 4:03 am


You said “The crooks here are Animal Control and the lawyers and the scapegoat is the man trying to keep his dog.” If he would have fought for his dog he would not have settled and gone to trial… but I guess that would have made him part with more money. In case you need to read the settlement… it is out there. This is OVER!

“A settlement, as well as dealing with the dispute between the parties is a contract between those parties, and is one possible (and common) result when parties sue (or contemplate so doing) each other in civil proceedings. The plaintiff(s) and defendant(s) identified in the lawsuit can end the dispute between themselves without a trial.
The contract is based upon the bargain that a party foregoes its ability to sue (if it has not sued already), or to continue with the claim (if the plaintiff has sued), in return for the certainty written into the settlement. The courts will enforce the settlement: if it is breached, the party in default could be sued for breach of that contract. In some jurisdictions, the party in default could also face the original action being restored.
The settlement of the lawsuit defines legal requirements of the parties, and is often put in force by an order of the court after a joint stipulation by the parties. In other situations (as where the claims have been satisfied by the payment of a certain sum of money) the plaintiff and defendant can simply file a notice that the case has been dismissed.

Generally, when a settlement is reached in the U.S., it will be submitted to the court to be “rolled into a court order”. This is done so that the court which was initially assigned the case may retain jurisdiction over it. The court is then free to modify its order as necessary to achieve justice in the case, and a party that breaches the settlement may be held in contempt of court, rather than facing only a civil claim for the breach.”

Comment from bimbam
Time September 8, 2013 at 10:27 pm

How come there is no mention about the owner’s book deal?