In a rare case of a pet owner being held criminally responsible for its dog’s behavior, a Studio City woman has been criminally charged after her Akita attacked three people in the last year and a half.
The Los Angeles County District Attorney charged Cheryl Hargrove Hooks, 56, with three felony counts of "failure to control a mischievous animal."
"It’s very unusual" to criminally charge a pet owner when their dog bites, DA spokesman Richard Santiago told NBC4.
The felony charges come in the wake of an NBC4 I-Team investigation, which revealed how the Akita, named Brody, viciously attacked a woman in April 2013, then mauled a 7-year-old boy the next year, and then ripped off part of a man’s face last November.
After each instance, the I-Team learned that the city of LA failed to impound the dog.
But the victims told the I-Team they held the dog’s owner responsible for not controlling the combative Akita.
"We have three victims from the same dog, and unfortunately the owner still feels that it’s a safe dog," said Jon Hinton, whose son Jack was mauled by Brody in front of their home, requiring stitches and hospitalization.
The DA’s office also felt the dog’s owner was responsible.
"Looking at the picture of one of the victims, it’s just pretty graphic. You just can’t let your dog do that," said Deputy District Attorney Ron Carey.
Cheryl Hooks attorney, Carl Douglas, told the I-Team in a statement, "Ms. Hooks is innocent of these charges filed against her." He added that she is looking forward to telling her side of the story in court.
While nine years is the sum of the maximum three 3-year terms she would serve if found guilty on all counts, it’s likely she would be permitted to serve the terms concurrently, meaning the total maximum served would be four years and four months.
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Clarification: Based on information provided to NBC4 by the LA County District Attorney’s office, our original story reported that if found guilty on all counts, Hooks could face up to 9 years in prison. The district attorney’s office subsequently clarified that while nine years is the sum of the maximum three 3-year terms she would serve if found guilty on all counts, it’s likely she would be permitted to serve the terms concurrently, meaning the total maximum served would be four years and four months. The story reflects this change.