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Victim of Violent Crime, in Hiding,|Pleads for the Life of Her Dog

MODESTO, Calif. (CN) - A woman hiding in a witness protection program after testifying against violent gang members sued the City of Turlock to stop it from killing today her only friend in the world - a pit bull - for breaking the city's leash law.

Jane Doe claims Turlock, a Central Valley city of 68,000, is violating her civil rights and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Her dog is scheduled to be euthanized today. Doe seeks a restraining order to save the animal.

In her complaint in Stanislaus County Court, Doe says gang members kidnapped her and her sister a Southern California movie theater 10 years ago. She claims the gang enslaved them and several other women of Eastern European descent for weeks, "in what can only be described as a pit" before some of the criminals were captured.

Doe says she testified against the gang members and then entered the witness protection program, because the gang had marked her and her sister for death.

Doe says she has been separated from her family for years and only recently feels comfortable leaving home - thanks to the companionship of her pit bull.

She says witness protection officials recommended that she get the dog for protection, and that she considers the dog her service animal.

"The plaintiff has trained her dog not to be violent in any manner, and she has never abused the animal or let anyone else abuse her: she does not bark - very often, it has never bitten anyone, it has never threatened to bite anyone, and other than being a pit bull that is the target of ire by the city and other defendants, it has done nothing wrong," Doe says in her complaint.

Doe says she has not been able to sit in a car with another human since her attack and has been under the "constant care" of Dr. Jonas Salk II, the son of the man who developed the polio vaccine. But the city has exacerbated her problems, she says.

She says she has been "repeatedly arrested and humiliated by defendants by being held against her will, in the back of defendant Turlock Police Department squad cars, taken to the jail and then released; purportedly for leash law violations, which have all resulted in dismissal with the exception of the latest."

Doe claims defendant Turlock Animal Control and the city are using the prior dismissals "as supposed evidence of a chronic problem with the dog getting out."

A Turlock ordinance allows the city to "destroy an animal that has been found to be in violation of the leash law three times," Doe says.

She adds: "Each of those prior arrests were dismissed only when the court got involved and therefore, those should not be used against the plaintiff nor her dog. These prior instances spanned over a period of longer than two years and they were doing [sic, recte: during] an extremely challenging part of the plaintiff's recovery from her prior torment."

Doe says she has complied with the city's orders and fortified her home to keep the pit bull from escaping again. She said the city even came out to inspect her work and said that it was sufficient, provided she paid a $1,000 impound fee.

"Instead, when she attempted to tender payment in full, a few days ago, she was met with opposition by city officials all the way up to the city manager's office (co-defendant) stating to her that now they were not going to accept payment for the fines and fees. The raising of these fines and fees created an onerous burden upon the plaintiff who has been unable to work," Doe says. (Parentheses in complaint.)

According to Doe, Dr. Salk II - who helps victims of violent trauma make a transition into normal life - says she is dependent on her pit bull, which qualifies the animal as a service dog under the ADA. She says the only reasons she's been able to associate with other humans at all are "intensive therapy, trust in her companion-dog, and knowledge that her sister is nearby."

Doe says her dog is being held in segregation and is scheduled to be euthanized today (Oct. 16). She filed an emergency restraining order to try to save him.

"The plaintiff knows exactly what it is like to be held in captivity against her will; she underwent that torture approximately 10 years ago, and every single day since. This renewed torture is much more harmful to her due to the fact that she had finally been able to trust another being again (her dog). The plaintiff and her service animal have gone through far more than most can nor should endure at the hands of the defendants," Doe says in her complaint. (Parentheses in original.)

Defendants include Turlock, its Animal Control Services, City Manager Roy Wasden, the Turlock Police Department and its Chief of Police Robert Jackson, Fire Chief Tim Lohman and Animal Control Services Officer Glena Jackson.

Besides the temporary restraining order, Doe seeks damages for the civil rights and ADA violations.

She is represented by Justin Allen of Turlock.

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