Update: Karma is now slated to be sent to the North Carolina sanctuary, after Judge Cramin changed his order Wednesday to allow the move instead having the dog euthanized.
Faced with a massive outpouring of public sympathy for a wolf-dog hybrid slated to be euthanized for killing a cat, Orange County supervisors reversed course Monday and will now seek to save the dog.
Last week, supervisors' Chairman Todd Spitzer failed to convince his colleagues to push for Karma, a husky mix who is about 15 percent wolf, to be sent to a wolf sanctuary. Such a move would mean challenging a court order requiring that she be killed.
But the public backlash – including 350,000 signatures to an online petition – prompted supervisors to hold a special meeting Monday specifically about Karma's fate. And this time, with the help of Supervisor Michelle Steel, who was absent last week, Spitzer got the necessary votes.
An audience consisting of several animal rights activists erupted into applause after the decision.
“This is just a beautiful dog. I mean it is just a beautiful, beautiful animal…we found a great home for it,” Spitzer said after the vote, which took place after a 30-minute discussion behind closed doors.
As three TV news cameras were rolling, Spitzer also thanked the advocates who worked to save Karma and the news media for covering the story.
Now Spitzer and other county officials will try to convince Orange County Superior Court Judge Corey Cramin to change his order, so Karma can be sent to the Full Moon Farm wolf dog sanctuary in North Carolina.
During the public comment that preceded the closed session, dog rescue operator Sharon Logan urged supervisors to give Karma “a second chance” at life and place her in a sanctuary.
“That’s where she deserves to be,” Logan told supervisors.
Supervisor Andrew Do, who opposed the decision to intervene, questioned before the vote why Monday’s meeting was even taking place, given that the sanctuary effort was rejected by most of the board, including himself, last week.
“What’s the basis for this meeting?” he asked.
County Counsel Leon Page replied that it was because his office received a notice that the family was seeking a hearing with Judge Cramin to change the order, and that the meeting was to get direction from the supervisors.
Joining Spitzer in the majority were supervisors Lisa Bartlett, who reversed her position from last week, and Michelle Steel.
Supervisor Shawn Nelson joined Do in opposition. Neither came back to the public session after the vote.
During last week’s meeting, Dr. Jennifer Hawkins, the county’s animal services director who recommended euthanasia, was asked repeatedly if she supports transferring Karma to a sanctuary. She responded that she stood by her decision to euthanize.
Hawkins said her decision wasn’t easy and that she took into consideration the “high prey drive” of the dog towards cats. The concern was Karma might not make a distinction between a small animal and a young child, she said.
Given Hawkins’ stance, Nelson argued that there’s no basis to ask the judge to overturn his decision.
“To go beg [the judge] now to undo what was just done – what would be the basis for that? And the answer is there isn’t one, other than we don’t like the decision. And that happens every day," said Nelson.
Spitzer responded that there are lions and tigers in Orange County that would “rip you apart and eat you,” but are in captivity with strict protections.