Records Detail County’s Handling of Dog That Attacked Pregnant Woman

Records released by Orange County officials reveal new details about their investigation of a dog that later attacked a Huntington Beach woman who was nine months’ pregnant.

The dog – a pit bull named Blue – had been declared “vicious” by county animal control officials in February after he ripped open a man’s upper lip, sending him to the hospital for about 100 stitches. That meant Blue would have to wear a muzzle and short leash when being walked in public.

But the owner appealed the decision, claiming the injuries were accidental, and the county’s animal services director removed the “vicious dog” designation.  She reversed the requirement that Blue wear a muzzle and short leash.

Then in June, when Blue’s owner, Mark Harry walked him in his Huntington Beach neighborhood, Blue bit Veronica Nguyen, tearing out part of her arm and sending her to the hospital in an ambulance. Her injuries were such that doctors decided to induce labor and perform a cesarean section.

There were no complications with the delivery and the baby was born healthy. But Nguyen had to undergo reconstructive surgery and, after returning home, was unable to pick up her newborn son or change his clothes. At the time, Nguyen’s surgeon could not say whether she will fully regain the ability to move all her fingers individually, according to her husband.

Revelations of the attack brought increased scrutiny on top officials at OC Animal Care, who have been under fire amid multiple reports, including two by the county grand jury, regarding management problems and deplorable conditions at the county’s 74-year-old animal shelter.

In the aftermath of the attack on Nguyen, county officials had declined to discuss details of the February incident or the rationale for reversing Blue’s “vicious dog” restrictions.

However, 120 pages of records released by the county under the California Public Records Act, reveal, among other things, the severity of the injury Blue caused in February and conflicting opinions by county officials as to whether Blue should be declared vicious.

(Click here to read the county documents, which are large files: Part 1 and Part 2.  The county blacked out names of victims and witnesses.)

There were also differing accounts of the circumstances surrounding the February bite. The injured man, whose name the county declined to release, reported that Blue had suddenly snapped at his face and bit him when he reached down for a drink.

Friends and family of the dog owner who witnessed the bite, meanwhile, painted a different picture to investigators.

They reported that Blue had not shown signs of aggression.  The victim, they said, was intoxicated from alcohol and had held up a ball or dog toy next to his face, and told Blue to get it.

It was then that the dog turned his head to retrieve it, and accidentally caused the lip injury, according to the owner’s friends and family.

But after reviewing the testimony and photos of the injury, Animal Care staff declared that the bite was intentional and recommended that Blue be declared vicious.

“Playing with a dog and its toy is not teasing the dog, it’s a normal routine for the dog,” wrote Lt. Brian Frick, a supervising animal control officer, in his Feb. 27 analysis of the injury.

“Conclusively, this was an unprovoked acute act of aggression which resulted in a severe injury to the lip of the victim.”

A letter was then delivered to Harry that same day, telling him Blue had been declared vicious and listing a series of requirements.

Among the mandates was that Blue wear a muzzle and be on leash that’s six feet long or less when taken in public.  And Harry would have to obtain $100,000 in liability insurance.

Harry appealed the decision, requesting an administrative hearing regarding the vicious dog decision. His attorney, Natalia Foley, filed a motion arguing that the dog’s teeth had accidentally slid over the victim’s face.

“It is the [owner] of the dog’s assertion that the dog did not actually bite the victim, instead the dog was performing the [victim’s] order and due to lack of space for the maneuver, [the] dog’s teeth accidentally slid over the skin of the victim,” Foley wrote in her filing.

At the March 10 hearing, testimony was given by Harry, other supporters of overturning the vicious dog designation, and an animal control representative.

In her recommendation the next day, the hearing officer, Stefani Waterman, found that Blue did not act aggressively and thus shouldn’t have the restrictions placed on him.

“My recommendation is to rescind the Vicious Dog Declaration based on [the victim] teasing the dog with the ball while commanding the dog to ‘get the ball’ and lack of evidence to support the dog acting aggressively at the time of injury,” she wrote in her memo to Animal Care Director Dr. Jennifer Hawkins, who had final say on the dog’s status.

Hawkins upheld the recommendation, and sent a March 13 letter to the owner saying she was removing the “vicious dog” designation and its restrictions. Just over three months later, Blue attacked Nguyen. This time Harry, chose to have his dog euthanized.

You can contact Nick Gerda at, and follow him on Twitter: @nicholasgerda.

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  • Dee

    BSL now! No more excuses! Clauses need to be added to BSL that stipulate no Pit Bull advocates to be place in charge of the hen houses anymore. Repeat mauling attacks by Pit Bulls is not acceptable.

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  • jcbl

    I hope that Mrs Nguyen sues the pants off Blues owner.

    • Kathleen Tahilramani

      1) Blues Owner 2) Blues Owners Home Insurance 3) The Animal Services Directer Personally 3) The Department Head Personally 4) The County of Orange…..This should have NEVER happened.

      • OCservant_Leader

        Attack 100% Preventable -County 100% Negligent.

        Management Chain – Board of Supes to EA Steve Franks to DVM Jennifer -can’t separate incompetence from malfeasance so they are immune.

        Will DVM Jennifer tell the truth of who called her and why she reversed decision?

        If she is past mid-career but can’t yet retire? She is screwed and must stay loyal to “family”. If she doesn’t – The baton is handed off to to Leon Page’s area of expertise.

        She will probably go on stress leave from the pressure of her conflict of personal ethics and the reality of ugly future= more injured people – more abused animals – another 50 years for new shelter and more employee retaliation. Is it worth it Jennifer?

    • John Claxton

      I think she probably will. This will go nicely with the fired animal control officer’s lawsuit who challenged the department on several issues including poor training, lack of equipment and for retaliation after complaints. I am sure he was another victim of Leon Page.

      • OCservant_Leader

        It would be interesting to list all the employee lawsuits along side each department’s scandal.

        The employees are trying to warn the public about what the “immune” EAs (hands of the Board of Supes) are doing.

        Not many survive when top Employee Muzzler – Leon Page gets done with them.

        Why can’t Vof OC get access to these cases?

        • Kathleen Tahilramani

          You have nailed it. The total cover-up of high level wrongdoing and destruction of employees who report wrongdoing is Page’s claim to a dubious fame. Karma – one day the worm with turn.

        • John Claxton

          Oh OCEA knows all about them. Most people who are represented by OCEA get ran over by a freight train. Only those who hire outside counsel, spending their retirement plans in the process, usually keep their jobs. OCEA has and pays for a f/t attorney but he gets to work from home most of the week and he never represents employees at any type of discipline hearings.

          • OCservant_Leader

            I assumed OCEA really supported their employees? One attorney? One attorney couldn’t cover the cases in one Agency?

            I know Managers are muzzled easily because they don’t have a union.

            Oh – man this is way worse then what even I thought. All I can go by is what I saw and the last office I worked in had 8 – active employee lawsuits out of 31 staff and that Manager wasn’t even hiding his corruption. (I’ll tell that story at a more appropriate time).

            The lawsuits, disciplinary action and worker comp cases make sense when you put them in context of the corruption.

            How can we “reveal” these cases for the public?

            i would think most employees want to tell their tale. Especially at Animal Care. The secrecy doesn’t benefit the public and allows the OC Board of Supes PR machine to control information.

  • OCservant_Leader

    Payola in OC Playbook
    Paddler working on his tan says to beer holder “Bro the County says Blue has to wear a muzzle- man that ruins his swag”.
    Beer Holder says “Yea Bro that ain’t cool – hey let me call my ex-roomie he used to date that chick who worked for the Supervisor grilling dogs at statue fests – all you got to do is make a donation bro”.
    Paddler replies “Hey thanks Bro that’s righteous”.
    Ring Ring “Hey Steve – this is (Fill in the blank) from the Supes office – we need a favor from a constiuant”.
    Ring Ring “Hey Jennifer this is Steve Franks. I need a favor – you know that case about Blue from HB? Yea turns out he is a great dog after all – loves to go to the GOP parades.”
    Jennifer – who is appointed by Steve Franks and wants to become more than “Interim Director” – decides to reverse her decision about Blue.
    All is well in the OC. Then one day Paddler and Blue are out showing off their swag and a nice pregnant lady turns the corner.
    Attack. Blood. Screams. Sirens.
    Ring Ring – “Hey Leon this is Steve Franks – yea I approve open checkbook to your buddies hired as outside council on Blue case in HB – take it out of slush fund”.
    Ring Ring – EA to Campaign Manager -“hey you know that donation from paddler in HB? We need to change that to anonymous donor- GOP Victory Fund okay.”
    And that’s another day in the OC.

    • John Claxton

      Ok, best and most accurate response ever. Made me laugh. Should make me cry because every word is true.

  • Kathleen Tahilramani

    Quote: “the dog’s teeth had accidentally slid over the victim’s face.” So using this logic – if person with a knife accidentally slid it over the victims face” causing a wound that requires 100 stitches – that could be excused?

    In what world do these idiots live in? This is beyond stupid – I don’t even know what to call it! And now, a second person is seriously injured. I cannot imagine what the woman who was pregnant and her family have been coping with starting with the fear of the attack, pain, fear for the safety of the unborn child, transport to the hospital, early delivery, surgery to repair her arm and a difficult recovery and inability to fully care for her new infant.
    This situation was manipulated and I would like to know who had the juice to overturn the initial designation of vicious. How did this happen? Why? In the first incident, the dog caused an injury requiring 100 stitches. 100 is NOT a joke. I have owned dogs of various temperaments and sizes and yes, I have had a dogs teeth pass over my face by mistake and I ended up with a bruise or a surface scratch – NOT 100 stitches. Not one stitch.
    The entire chain of individuals responsible for this string of irresponsible decisions should be fired immediately. The Agency Director abdicated the responsibility to protect the community. And, the result was a serious injury and a well deserved lawsuit.
    The Director should be personally libel for this decision and the consequences, not the taxpayers. The dereliction of duty is so egregious that it cannot be excused.
    This never should have happened and the people responsible for ensuring that it never would – failed us.

    • SuperTJ

      100 stitches — just unreal. The county administrators ignored the findings of the actual animal control officer too (“acute act of aggression”). The appeals “hearing” sounds like a doggie, pony court. Just perfect when there are human LIVES on the line.

      • Kathleen Tahilramani

        And sadly for the Animal Control Officer that made the right call and was overturned, that person is now BOS & Dept. Head enemy Number 1. No good deed goes unpunished at the County of Orange, being right when those above you are wrong will get you blackballed.

  • OCservant_Leader

    Smells like old fashioned payola help flip the “vicious ” dog decision.

    No one is this incompetent.

    What does it cost these days?

    In the OC – money greases the wheels and a phone call is made. Done.

    The only one who wins here – is the outside counsel the County will have to hire to negotiate the settlement.

    The pit owner should have been put down and the whole management chain fired as a public service. What a disaster- that poor woman!

  • Chris R

    So this guy fights hard to get the designation removed cause it was all an “accident” that some got 100 stitches, then the dog goes out and rips up some poor women’s arm. This is exactly why these pit advocates words should never be taken seriously. Because of this idiots fight, someone else had to get injured.

    • SuperTJ


  • Mary Ann Redfern

    This animal control should by sued for their ineptitude in handling this SIMPLE case of a vicious pit bull. The person who unleashed this pit from his vicious dog designation should be FIRED without further ado. WHAT A COMPLETE AND BONAFIDE IMBECILE.

  • DB Bell

    If bully cared about their dogs welfare, they would muzzle them.

    Tragically for all, bully people do not care about their dogs. They care about self, ego, and their ability to breed own and monger their dog of choice.

    Proof that the bully people do not care about pitbull welfare is their refusal to offer or accept any ways to reduce the horrific pit crisis.

    So everything will stay the same: dog fighting will continue, a million surplus pits will be produced year after year with that many being killed in pounds a year after year. That’s all fine with bully people.

    Yes, they will get all up in arms over a particular pit story here and there, but make no mistake. That’s not because they care about pitbulls, that’s because they love to fight.

    • Mary Ann Redfern

      Exactly right, DB.

    • Dee

      I read recently that the numbers of Pit Bulls being euthanized is up to 1.2 million a year. That is a lot of dead Pit Bulls being ignored and dismissed by Pit Bull advocates.

  • David Zenger

    “the dog’s teeth had accidentally slid over the victim’s face.”

    100 stitches. That’s quite a slide.

    • Mary Ann Redfern

      That was an “eye roll” moment for me also.