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article imageOp-Ed: German Shepard saved a man's life, was his best friend, now gone Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Jun 19, 2015 in Crime
Redwood City - The San Francisco Peninsula man who was charged with animal cruelty, a year ago had his day in county court this past June 12.
Judge Joseph Bergeron, reduced the felony charges of animal cruelty to a misdemeanor of animal abuse,
based upon testimony and documentation collected. This reporter talked with Karen Guidotti, deputy attorney from the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office regarding that Friday's court proceedings. She said that the accused, Joe Regis, Jr. of Redwood City was given a continuance and is to return to court later this summer.
Attorney for Regis, Joseph Della Santina said that the court has been most fair. And, that the judge was willing to consider community service. "No promises were made, he said. The judge was very clear he wants to see Joe make his own efforts at performing community service and not wait for it to be mandated to him." "For any defendant in any court case, it is in the defendant's favor to demonstrate to the court remorse right from the get go," said Della Santina.
Regis told this reporter he is not going to wait, "I will start my community service hours right away." While Regis is grateful to the court for recognizing that his dog's death was an unfortunate accident, "it does not bring Elijah back. He is gone and I am living with that everyday."
While the police report summery said little about any details surrounding the death of the 7-year-old German Shepard, the summary released said, the dog died as a result of "being overheated."
"It was very hot that morning, (on June 8, 2014)," said Della Santina and what is most sad about all of this is that the door to Regis' Toyota pick-up truck was unlocked," he said.
Both Guidotti and Scott Delucchi of the Peninsula Humane Society confirmed that when Belmont Police arrived on the scene just after 10:00 that June morning a year ago, the door to the pick up truck was unlocked. It is unclear as to why Rishi Sharma, the maintenance man at the motel, where Regis had been staying did not simply try to open the door. Sharma was the one who called 911.
Yet, as Delucchi pointed out, calling 911 for help is the best thing to do. The Peninsula Humane Society and the police follow a very strict protocol. "I am sad to say that when our team arrived, the dog's temperature was over 107 degrees."
When this reporter first collected information to write a more thorough report, it had been said by Sharma and others that police had thrown ice on the dog. Sharma and others thought it was the ice that caused the dog to expire. But as Deluchhi explained, "the dog was examined (with a full autopsy) and it was confirmed that it was the heat and not the ice that was the cause of death."
Delucchi also said that police were responding and following a protocol that was not random (or impulsive).The Humane Society staff representative was present. "These types of situations are common and our job is to help rescue the animal." Delucchi noted that often it is a short-sightedness on the part of a pet owner, who doesn't realize that it only takes a very short amount of time for a car to heat up."
That quick run to the store, that brief few extra minutes waiting out in the parking lot, can result in a life and death situation for a pet, left inside a car during a hot day. In Regis' case he forgot to leave the back window open of the truck cab of the pick up truck. It was not clear as to why the dog was not allowed to stay in the motel room with Regis. As previously reported by this reporter, the maintenance man Sharma said that Regis was a good guest/tenant and took very good care of the dog. Sharma did say to this reporter that the motel management had 'a no tolerance' policy for any disturbances, which might explain why police responded swiftly to the 911 call.
"Elijah always slept back there; (in the back seat area of the pick up truck.) It was his bed," said Regis. Several of his friends, landlady and even his housekeeper Karen Keller noted that Elijah liked to sleep in the back (the backseat section) of the Toyota pick-up truck on a regular basis.
"Elijah was his buddy, said Keller. That dog was the entire world, to Joe," she said. Just as his landlady Maria Rutenburg and others noted, the dog saved Regis' life when he was attacked by a step-brother. "Joe was just trying to help his step-brother out, letting him stay while he got back on his feet. Joe was more than accommodating to his step-brother" said Keller. But as she and others noted, the step-brother had just gotten out of prison and despite Regis' kindness, the stepbrother "flew into a rage, over something trivial."
Keller also was pet-sitter for Elijah when Regis had to go out on extended jobs as an electrician/construction worker. "Usually, the dog went with him on jobs. But any job were dogs were not allowed, I stepped in to help out. There was absolute love for the dog. I saw the relationship between Joe and Elijah," she said. "Elijah was the nicest/sweetest dog ever, Keller said. She said that during that time when Regis was renting the house in Redwood City, the attack upon Regis by the step-brother with a hammer over the head, caused permanent brain injury. "the stepbrother had problems and I think it was drugs," said Keller. "Elijah was very protective of Joe and helped Joe to escape," she said.
Initial media reports, especially by the San Mateo County Times and The San Jose Mercury News posted Regis as homeless. Keller, Rutenburg and others clarified that he was not homeless (or a transient/vagrant) as those news reports implied. "I was taken-aback by what I read, said Keller, I just cried."
Yet, speaking on behalf of Belmont Police, Capt. Patrick Halleran noted, "at the time of the incident, Regis was in-between residences." This was later confirmed and explained to this reporter by attorney Della Santina. "He did rent the house in Redwood City but, said Della Santina he chose to leave when the landlady decided to renovate."
Apart from this very unfortunate mistake, which can happen to anyone, this reporter sensed that that earlier media reports "jumped to conclusions." Because Regis had been staying at a questionable motel. And, that motel has had troubles with police on a regular basis. And, that Regis had been associated with his step-brother who just got out of prison. It seemed as if Regis had been branded and convicted even before he appeared in court.
Police and the San Mateo County DA's office would not comment on that. Yet, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe did say that because the charges of animal cruelty are a felony, "we must proceed with care." If convicted, the ramifications extend beyond jail time; it would be a permanent stain on someone's record and reputation.
"What the media had said about Joe is unfathomable," said Dr. Christopher DeMartini of California Neurohealth. He is a specialist in head-trauma and brain injury and has been treating Regis. "Joe is very hard working, said DeMartini and this entire incident got so mishandled by the initial media reports."
Attorney Della Santina noted that the therapy, "Joe has been receiving from DeMartini has really helped him." "What also has been very upsetting is that (incorrect and sensationalized) media reports about this case have spread as far as Europe," said Della Santina. The power of media today is far reaching and news, even if inaccurate and incorrect travels fast.
DeMartini, attorney Della Santina and several others have said that Regis has been devastated by the loss of his dog. "And, to have serious charges brought up against him, adds insult to injury," said DeMartini.
Still, determined to move forward with his life, Regis reiterated he will begin his community service as soon as possible. "I am truly sorry for what happened," he said. "I miss my dog so much. He was the anchor and center of my universe. He was my best friend. He saved my life. What more can I say!"
Regis' case is in continuance and he is scheduled to appear before the county court again on August 14.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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