Berkeley couple takes death of fawn into own hands

Fawn. Photo: Christian & Tara Stauduhar
A local couple believes an off-leash dog attack killed this fawn Thursday morning. Photo: Christian Stauduhar

Disclaimer: This article contains graphic photographs that some may find disturbing. Reader discretion is advised.

A North Berkeley couple was distraught by the death of a fawn near their home on Thursday, and took matters into their own hands after failing, they said, to get a prompt response from city of Berkeley staff or officials.

Christian and Tara Stauduhar say they are convinced an off-leash dog killed the fawn, and say it’s not the first time off-leash dogs have caused problems in the area, on their property and at adjacent Glendale La Loma Park in northeast Berkeley. 

Christian Stauduhar told Berkeleyside, by email, that he woke up just before 7 a.m. Thursday to the sounds of “an animal screaming, a dog barking, and the dog owner yelling for his dog” at the park.


I went outside to investigate, and observed the dog running around on our property before returning to its screaming owner,” Stauduhar wrote. “I was unable to catch more than a glimpse of the owner, who was in the park, about a hundred yards away.”

Stauduhar then looked around for the animal he had heard in distress, and found a fawn on his property. The fawn was “wet around the neck and hind legs, but was able to turn its head to look at me, and was standing.” Stauduhar watched the animal from about 20 feet away for approximately 5 minutes, then went inside.

“The animal had clearly been attacked, but since it looked mobile, and because it is illegal to render aid to a wild animal in California, I left her to her recovery,” he wrote.

About an hour later, he went to check on the fawn and found that it dead.

Fawn. Photo: Christian Stauduhar
A Berkeley man found this fawn dead in his yard after hearing what sounded to him like an attack by a dog. Photo: Christian Stauduhar
Fawn. Photo: Christian Stauduhar
Christian Stauduhar told Berkeleyside he believes these photos show injuries caused by an attack by a dog. Photo: Christian Stauduhar

Stauduhar told Berkeleyside that dogs must be on a leash in the area, under Berkeley Municipal Code 10.04.120, but said the rule is routinely flouted. Code section 10.04.090, which prohibits dogs “running at large,” also applies.


According to the website bringfido.com, there are only two off-leash dog parks in Berkeley, at Cesar Chavez Park and Ohlone Park. According to the city website, Glendale La Loma does not include an off-leash area.

Signs are clearly posted at the park for those who are unfamiliar with the law,” wrote Stauduhar. “Having many, many run-ins with dog owners who let their dog(s) run off-leash in the park and on our property, and suffering nothing but abuse and a litany of excuses and rationalizations; having had Animal Control and the police responding on a dozen, or so, occasions; having suffered a broken wrist while extracting my pet from the jaws of an 80 lb dog; having spent several thousand dollars on vet. bills as a result; having had enough — I responded in the following way.”

He hung the fawn on the fence, using ties, and also mounted signs reading “Killed by off-leash dog.”

Fawn. Photo: Christian Stauduhar
Stauduhar hung the dead fawn on a fence after it died on his property. Photo: Christian Stauduhar

Stauduhar said his wife, Tara, wrote to the city’s animal control officer, their councilwoman, Susan Wengraf, and the city attorney to describe what had taken place. As of about 1:15 p.m. Friday, no one had responded.

Stauduhar said he went, at about noon, to see if the city had picked up the fawn. It was still there, but its location had changed.


“I found that someone had taken down the signs and placed them in the trash, and cut the fawn down, left to rot on the lawn,” he wrote. “Apparently the killing of the creature did not offend, but the assignation of blame did. I fail to understand the mind of a person who would place signs in the trash and then not give a second thought to the corpse. I extracted the signs from the trash and re-posted them.”

Fawn. Photo: Christian Stauduhar
Stauduhar hung the dead fawn on a fence after it died on his property. Photo: Christian Stauduhar

Stauduhar said he was frustrated by the lack of a response, as well as the ongoing issues related to off-leash dogs in the area.

“We have laws and our community ignores them. We have laws and those who are paid to enforce them do not. We have contacted the relevant parties in our city government, and they do not act,” he wrote. “I am left wondering if this is — or, should be — the way in a functional society, predicated on the rule of law and civil behavior.”

Just prior to the publication of this story, Stauduhar said his wife received an email, at about 1:50 p.m., indicating the fawn had been picked up.

According to city spokesman Matthai Chakko, who responded by email to Berkeleyside just before 2 p.m., “After being forwarded an email about the carcass yesterday afternoon, Animal Control put it on a priority to be picked up and it was picked up this morning.”

Chakko said those who wish to report off-leash dogs can call Animal Control at 510-981-6600, or the Berkeley Police Department’s non-emergency line at at 510-981-5900.

Stauduhar said he’s sure he’ll have to deal with related problems in the future.

“It does put an end to this episode, but I’m confident that there will be another,” he wrote. “The city ignores the park to [the] extent that when communicating a problem to them, they have on every occasion needed us to give them directions to the park. That has been the case for the BPD and Animal Control. I had a long conversation with the BPD recently and they said that they would not patrol the park or respond to trespass complaints.”  

Stauduhar said he was advised by police to “place any offender under citizens arrest and then they will respond to collect the offender,” which he said seemed unrealistic.

I don’t find this to be a comfortable, safe, or rational policy,” he wrote.

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