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No Charges Pending Yet Against San Francisco Dog Owners Following Fatal AttackAired February 2, 2001 - 4:36 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: It is an incident that has shocked and angered people in the San Francisco Bay area -- and well beyond that, as well. A woman was viciously mauled to death by a neighbor's attack dog in the hallway of her very own apartment building. Earlier today, the dog's owner spoke publicly for the first time.
CNN's James Hattori joins us now with an update -- James.
JAMES HATTORI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joie, this is an incident that has stunned a lot of people around the San Francisco Bay area. And today one of the owners of the dog -- which is a Canary Island mastiff -- again suggested that the victim, 33-year-old Diane Whipple may have somehow encouraged the attack.
Whipple was mauled and bitten in the hallway of her apartment last Friday. The dog -- which is mate of this canary island mastiff -- now being held in custody, apparently broke free from one of the dog's owners, Marjorie Knoller. Knoller told police she tried to stop the animal, even pin Ms. Whipple to the ground to protect her, then told her to take shelter in her apartment. Robert Noel, the other owner -- and a lawyer -- says the fatal attack occurred after Ms. Whipple came back out of the apartment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT NOEL, DOG OWNER: And all she had to do was close her door. Instead, for whatever reason, she came back out in the hall. You can speculate as to what her subjective state of mind was. But the law looks in terms of what a theoretical reasonable person would do under the circumstances.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thus far, there definitely seems to be at least a strong suggestion that obviously something terribly wrong happened here, that not only could it have been prevented, it should have been prevented.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HATTORI: And, as you can hear from that last remark, the San Francisco District Attorney's Office is -- today says it's leaning towards some sort of prosecution. And that could range from anything from a misdemeanor dog-biting charge all the way up to some sort of manslaughter charge. The D.A. expects to make that decision within the next three weeks.
On other twist: Those two dogs were apparently obtained from a California prison inmate. The couple that adopted the dogs also adopted the 38-year-old inmate. And police are also investigating whether or not the dogs may have been trained for fighting or perhaps guarding some sort of illegal drug operation. So, Joie, there are lots of confusing and bizarre twists to this story that need to be sorted out still.
CHEN: I think bizarre is sort of the understatement in all of this, James. Can you talk a little bit about the feelings in the Bay area community? I mean, after all, this is a community that cares a lot about animals, but to see something like this happen...
HATTORI: Well, everybody is really is shocked. We were at a park where dogs are commonly taken out for walks not far from where this happened this morning. And many of them are angered. Some of them say there is now an unnatural overemphasized fear of all animals. They are afraid of a backlash. But this is a town where the dog pound does not kill animals -- or does not kill most animals. Most are them are turned over and adopted and treated very nicely.
So this is an area where -- a city where people are very attuned to animals. And they love the animals. And they are very concerned about this case.
CHEN: CNN's James Hattori reporting to us from San Francisco today.
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