Colorado Senate Republicans want Aurora officials to know they’re standing with the owners of Capone, the dog being held by the city’s animal shelter on suspicion the longtime family pet is a wolf hybrid. And by Monday afternoon, hundreds of people had signed their names to an online petition started by the Senate GOP asking Aurora to save Capone and send him home.
“Big government is at it again,” reads the “Save Capone the dog!” petition, which showed up Friday on the Colorado Senate Republicans website, maintained by the legislative body’s majority party.
After briefly recounting Capone’s story — his owners adopted him at a local shelter roughly a decade ago, and city officials impounded him after finding him roaming near his home last month and have said he could be euthanized if it turns out he has a trace of wolf ancestry, according to a DNA test they’ve ordered — the petition says, “Sign here to support our neighbors, reunite the family, and keep government out of our lives.”
More than 600 signatures had been affixed to the petition by 5 p.m. on Monday.
“I felt we should speak up for an animal who can’t speak for himself,” state Sen. Tim Neville, a Littleton Republican, told The Colorado Statesman. “We wanted to put attention on what appears to be local government overstepping and separating a pet away from its loving family and placing unnecessary charges against them.”
Aurora municipal ordinance forbids owning a wolf or wolf hybrid, and officials have refused to return Capone to the family pending resolution of the city’s allegations.
Capone’s owner, Tito Serrano, has been charged with five counts, including owning an aggressive or dangerous animal; owning a wild, exotic or dangerous animal; owning an animal running at-large; failure to obtain a pet license; and lack of a current rabies vaccination. Serrano has pleaded not guilty to the charges and his next scheduled court appearance is Wednesday in Aurora Municipal Court.
Neville was one of four state lawmakers who wrote the Aurora Animal Shelter last week asking officials to turn over records involving Capone’s case and put plans to euthanize him on hold until they’ve had a chance to review the documents. The other legislators were Democratic state representatives Steve Lebsock of Thornton, Jovan Melton of Aurora and Joann Ginal of Fort Collins. (Capone’s owner lives in Melton’s legislative district.)
City officials have said that if they determine the animal is part wolf, they’ll try to place Capone with a sanctuary for wolves and wolf-dog hybrids but will euthanize him if they can’t find a suitable home.
The city’s municipal records supervisor denied the lawmakers’ Colorado Open Records Act request late Monday, saying the “criminal justice records” were part of an active case. In addition, the records supervisor wrote, the request was from someone “who is not a subject of the records (defendant/suspect, victim).”
“In denying this request, the Animal Care Division is balancing the privacy interests of individuals impacted by disclosure; the agency’s interest in keeping confidential information confidential; the agency’s interest in pursuing ongoing investigations without compromising them; and the public purpose served by allowing disclosure,” the records supervisor wrote.
Earlier Monday, Capone’s owners told a local TV reporter that a DNA test has shown that their dog is not a wolf hybrid, The Aurora Sentinel reported.
Michael Bryant, a spokesman for the city, told The Statesman he couldn’t say much because Capone’s case is an ongoing legal matter.
“At the upcoming disposition hearing, the municipal judge will determine, among other things, if there exists reasonable assurance that the animal can be safely maintained, cared for and controlled without danger to the community and that the animal does not create a nuisance to the surrounding neighbors or community. Because there is a pending legal case, we cannot provide any further comment at this time,” Bryant said.