SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. – Owners of the dogs that fatally mauled Lana Bergman, 70, of Joshua Tree did not appear for a hearing Wednesday, which was held to determine if the four pit bulls should be euthanized.
At the “potentially dangerous/vicious determination hearing” employees from San Bernardino County Animal Care and Control presented evidence to a Hearing Officer. Following the hearing, the officer declared the four dogs “as vicious and ordered them to be humanely euthanized pursuant to San Bernardino County Code,” said San Bernardino Co. Department of Public Health-Animal Care and Control Lt. Desiree Molina.
Bergman’s brother, sister, and other family members appeared at the hearing and read a statement, indicating they believed the staffordshire bull terriers should not be adopted.
“We are horrified that we have to justify euthanizing these vicious animals that killed my sister and turned our lives upside down,” said Jay Barnett.
“My sister Lana was a sweet person who always gave people the benefit of the doubt and tried to help her fellow man whenever she could,” read Barnett. “That’s why when her roommate suggested she allow Stephanie Anne Johnston and (her husband) to park their school bus with their four children and four dogs on her property for a couple of days she agreed. Days turned into weeks and the day she told them they had to leave is the day she was attacked and killed by these ‘vicious’ out of control dogs.”
Johnston could not be reached for comment, however, she previously called Bergman’s death traumatic.
“I hope in her death she can have peace, and her family can heal from this egregious tragedy,” said Johnston. “And we’re just going to do our best to heal from our experience and involvement in the scene because those are our dogs.”
“The owner of the dogs did not appear at the hearing so pursuant to San Bernardino County Code he has no right to appeal the hearing officers decision as it pertains to the potentially dangerous dog declaration process,” said Molina. She said that does not preclude the owner from attempting to stay the order through the court system.
Bergman’s family disputes the decision by San Bernardino County prosecutors, who declined to charge Johnston or her husband with Bergman’s death.
If investigators determined the family knew the dogs had violent tendencies and didn’t properly secure them, the couple could have been charged with manslaughter.
However Supervising District Attorney Ronald Webster said it does not appear that any criminal behavior took place.
“It was a horribly unfortunate situation, but doesn’t mean they did it on purpose,” said Webster.