A San Francisco jury let a homeless man out of the doghouse this week after deciding he was not guilty of smacking around his 8-pound chihuahua.
According to the Public Defender's Office, 57-year-old Morris Varian was arrested last February after he allegedly punched, kicked, and tossed his pup while walking through SOMA. Varian, who had just moved to San Francisco with his 2-year-old dog, Aubrey, was walking on Mission Street, with his belongings in a plastic garbage bag and pup in tow. The dog was reportedly perched atop the bag, with her head sticking out.
Aubrey, who was more accustomed to suburban life, was apparently unfamiliar with the bustling city atmosphere; she abruptly jumped from the bag and ran into the street. Varian, panicked, but caught Aubrey just in time. He placed her back on her garbage perch and continued his trek.
When the pair reached the Yerba Buena Gardens, Aubrey hopped from the bag again, nearly hitting a wall and falling to the ground. This time, Varian grabbed Aubrey and "disciplined her by lightly swatting the scruff of her neck two times," according to the Public Defender's Office.
When Varian went to put Aubrey back on her perch, a 45-year-old man standing nearby snatched Aubrey from Varian and called the cops, reporting that Varian had thrown the dog against the wall, punched her in the head, slapped her repeatedly, and then tried to suffocate her in a plastic bag.
A confused Varian explained to the cops how much he loves Aubrey and would never hurt her. Still, Aubrey was taken to a local vet and Varian was taken to jail, where he stayed for 37 days.
The veterinarian who immediately examined Aubrey took the stand during the three-day trial, testifying that she found "absolutely no injuries that would be consistent with the attack" described by the witness. She also said that after examining the dog, she did not believe it had been abused at all, finding no signs of swelling, bruising, broken bones, fractures, or any other injuries the she would expect to result from an 8-lb dog being beaten by a man.
A few other witnesses took the stand, including a Yerba Buena security guard, who said he did not see anything resembling dog abuse.
While behind bars, a despondent Varian learned that Aubrey had been adopted by the same man who had called the cops to report the abuse.
"By all accounts, Mr. Varian doted on Aubrey and considered her part of his family," Public Defender Jeff Adachi said. "In an instant, he lost his dog and his freedom. While he cannot reclaim his dog, his public defender was able to clear his name."
Jurors deliberated 40 minutes Tuesday afternoon before finding 57-year-old Morris Varian not guilty of one count of misdemeanor animal abuse. He faced a year in jail if convicted, said his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Abigail Rivamonte.