dog-holding-gavel.jpgEvery dog has its day–in court.

That has been the general message of San Francisco’s Vicious and Dangerous Animal Unit–otherwise known as “animal court”–over the nearly two decades that it has been headed up by Sergeant Bill Herndon of the San Francisco Police Department.

Since Herndon and co-presiding Officer John Denny took over the canine court and subsequently had their positions increased to full-time after the 2001 dog mauling death of Diane Whipple, they have presided over thousands of cases addressing everything from complaints over noisy or unfriendly pooches to more serious offenses.

Recently however, Sergeant Herndon was reassigned to patrol duties at Park Station. This abrupt move combined with the fact that he is set to retire within the next year has many in the public scratching their heads over the sudden switch, especially in light of the highly publicized dog attacks in Golden Gate Park last month.

SF Weekly has reported that Herndon has been at least temporarily replaced, quoting Animal Care and Control director Rebecca Katz as saying Officer Sherry Hicks has “been assigned [to dog court], and if this works out, she’ll stay assigned.”

What the change has done thus far is set off rumors that the vicious dogs unit is nearing its final days. While the Police Commission office could not verify this information (or reports on Herndon’s replacement) as fact or fiction, Commissioner Risa Tom told the Appeal that the fact that the vicious dogs unit is listed as an item under the Chief’s Report section of the agenda for tomorrow night’s meeting verifies that it will be addressed in some form.

“It’s calendared as a status report so one of the assistant chiefs will update us on the status of the unit,” Tom said.

While some may see the vicious dogs unit as a doggone waste of Police Department resources and taxpayer dollars, there are certainly San Francisco residents who would be barking mad to see the animal court shut its doors. Whichever side of the matter you support, we will see what the Chief’s office has to say about the matter tonight.

The Police Commission meeting will be held at 5:30pm on Wednesday, August 18, 2010 in City Hall, Room 400 (#1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place). It is open to the public.

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