Tom Hohn’s pet dog Zeus is at the Manteca animal shelter.
The unemployed plumber, who lost his job six months ago, said all he wants is to have his “best friend” and “constant companion” home.
The city Animal Control officer he talked to said that would be no problem. All Hohn has to do is have his dog neutered.
The reason: Zeus is a pit bull. Not only that, the 16-month-old dog that the Hohns purchased 16 months ago from a Modesto breeder is not neutered. Manteca city Ordinance 1416 adopted in October 2008 mandates that pit bull owners should have their dogs spayed or neutered if they plan to keep their dogs within the city limits for more than 30 days. Failure to do so will result in fines and possible jail time. The ordinance also requires that neutering or spaying on all pit bull breeds be done when the dogs are eight weeks old.
But Hohn is vehemently opposed to all of that. He says his Zeus is not a pit bull but “a pure bred American Bully.”
He is even willing to “move out of Manteca, with my dog intact,” he added.
“I’d gladly leave Manteca and quit paying my taxes,” said Hohn who was visibly upset and angry when he, along with his daughter Rayanne, talked to a reporter Thursday afternoon.
The family has called Manteca home for the last 10 years.
Hohn is also arguing that while his dog may look like a pit bull, he is not.
“He is an American Bully. They are bred to take all the meanness out of them,” Rayanne said.
“He is a trained dog,” added Hohn, who qualified after further questioning, that the training was “done by me.”
He also said, “Zeus has helped me through a lot of sickness last year.”
The dog has never been a problem, said Rayanne. “He goes everywhere with my dad. My dad has taken him to Home Depot, Pet Smart – everywhere. People know him well,” she said.
From Woodward Park to the dog pound
It was with that confidence that the Hohns brought Zeus and Rayanne’s Maltese poodle to play in the “fenced in” storm retention basin at Woodward Park around 10 o’clock Thursday morning.
“I thought this was a good place for them to play,” said Hohn.
Within half an hour, an animal control officer showed up, then walked up to him and started asking questions.
This is how Hohn described the verbal interaction at the park:
Officer: Do you have an ID for this dog?
Officer: Does your dog have a leash?
Hohn: Yes, my daughter is holding it.
Officer: Is your pit bull neutered?
Officer: Oh, s…t!
Hohn: I’m taking my dog home.
Officer: No, you’re not leaving; you’re not going anywhere. You take one more step and you’re going to be arrested.
Hohn: You’re going to arrest me for walking my dog at the park?
At that point, said Hohn, the animal control talked with someone on his radio and soon “an undercover cop and four patrol cops” arrived.
He said he also told the officers, “I didn’t know about the (pit pull) ordinance. I’ll have this rectified.” But they “confiscated” his dog anyway, he said.
Hohn said he found out later that someone had called the police about his pit bull Zeus being at the park. He said, they didn’t see anybody around, nor did they hear anybody complain about their presence there.
Manteca’s ordinance on pit bulls as pets contains specific language on why neutering and spaying are required, what the exceptions are, and penalties that arise in case of violations. A pit bull is exempted from mandatory neutering and spaying if “the owner, guardian, or keeper has obtained, or has submitted an application for a breeding permit” in accordance to the language of the ordinance.
Another exception is if the pit bull is a show dog. Zeus, though, does not fall under that category even though it has papers from UKC (United Kennel Club), Hohn said, showing that particular evidence.
The city ordinance defines pit bull as “any dog that is a Bull Terrier, Miniature Bull Terrier, American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, American Staffordshire Terrier, or any other dog displaying the physical traits of any one or more of the above breeds, or any dog exhibiting those distinguishing characteristics that conform to the 6.10.030 standards established by the American Kennel Club (“AKC”) or United Kennel Club (“UKC) for any of the above breeds.”
While his pet is at the dog pound, Hohn has to pay $10 each day it is kept there. He is also determined to bring Zeus home “intact.”
“If I have to get a lawyer, I will, even though I can’t afford one,” said Hohn, who added that he may try to obtain one to help him pro bono.
Thursday was not the first time the Hohns have taken Zeus to Woodward Park. Hohn said he took his dog to a soccer game there about six months ago. But they left after “a gentleman came up and said that some people were uncomfortable” with the dog being there, and they complied without incident, Hohn said.
The city also has a law requiring dogs to be on a leash on public property.