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)