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The fate of a male pit bull from San Francisco is in the hands of a local judge. Charlie the pit bull is accused of racing up to a mounted park police officer, biting the officer and the horse, and then chasing the horse at least a mile and a half through The Presidio. The officer was thrown from his mount and briefly lost consciousness. The horse was bitten and nipped as it made a beeline for its stable. The dog's owner says an inexperienced, poorly trained police horse caused the whole episode and charges of assaulting a police officer should be thrown out.

Charlie was out running with his master last month when he veered over towards the horse. The pit bull first bit the heel of the officer's boot, then chomped down on the horse's front leg. The startled animal reared and the officer was thrown to the ground. The horse took off at a full gallop with the pit bull in pursuit. Police say it continued to attack the police horse until another officer on a motorcycle was able to scare the dog off with his siren and air horn.

Charlie has been declared a "vicious and dangerous dog" and was ordered put down by a superior court judge. The owner appealed, and the euthanasia has been delayed while the judge reviews the case. Charlie, meanwhile, has been neutered in hopes of calming him down somewhat.

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Some advice for elevator mechanics everywhere courtesy of a Florida jury; take the passengers out of the elevator before trying to fix it. A 54 year-old woman who was bounced and jounced from the 23rd floor to the basement of a Jacksonville high rise office building was awarded millions of dollars in damages for her ordeal. The ride of terror left her with partial paralysis of her left leg, pseudoseizures, chronic depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, injuries that left her wheelchair-bound for years.

The $13 million judgment capped litigation that spanned more than a decade. In 1999 the woman was in the elevator on the 23rd floor of the building when the elevator malfunctioned. It dropped to the 8th floor and then stopped. An in-house mechanic employed by the Schindler Elevator Company was summoned to fix the balky lift. Rather than take the woman out of the car before working on it, he left her inside. The elevator then fell several more times - short falls arrested by safety devices - landing the car and its battered passenger in the building's basement.

After a two week trial the civil jury issued the award against Schindler Elevator Company and the owners of the high-rise office building. The jury decided that Schindler was not responsible for the initial plunge, but the mechanic's failure to get everyone out of the car before he attempted repairs was careless. Her attorney called that decision, "grossly negligent."

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Falls represent a substantial risk of injury to both nursing home residents and employees, in California and across the country. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that nursing home workers are forced to take time off work for injuries at rates 2.3 times higher than all other employees in private industry. An analysis of the reasons shows that slip-and-fall accidents are largely to blame for the discrepancy.

For that reason, OSHA is planning to conduct a campaign for the next three years focusing on inspecting nursing homes for safety violations, hoping to prevent some of these falls and the resulting injuries. Slip-and-fall accidents account for 15 percent of all deaths from accidents in this country, making it a cause of death second only to vehicle crashes.

Some of these falls are caused by slippery, wet and dirty surfaces on the floors of nursing homes, leaving much room for improvement in efforts to prevent such accidents. Nursing homes, as well as other facilities and businesses experiencing a high number of injuries from falls, may wish to consider the use of a commercial floor mat system. The use of such mats, especially in areas with heavy foot traffic, can prevent moisture and dirt from pooling and piling up on walking surfaces.

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As the controversy over whether pit bulls are inherently more vicious than other breeds of dogs continues, so do incidents of pit bull attacks on unsuspecting victims. Just this week a woman and her young son were bitten by a dog who slipped off his leash while out for a walk.

The attack happened in Vallejo, California, Tuesday night just before 9:30. The woman said she and her son were in a parking lot when a man walking his dog passed by. Police said the dog somehow managed to get out of his collar and when he did, he went after the 5-year-old boy. As his mother tried to protect him, she was bitten, too.

The man and his dog had left the scene by the time police arrived, but police said they later found the dog nearby. Two officers, one from animal control, tried to take the dog, which they said became aggressive and tried to attack both officers. After a Taser shock proved ineffective, the officer shot the dog. It's not clear whether the dog died, but even if it can no longer attack, its owner could be hit with a premises liability lawsuit if the mother decides to file one to recoup her and her son's medical costs.

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Those of us who have dogs are loathe to admit that they're capable of causing any harm, but the reality is that some pets are inclined to bite or attack a person under certain circumstances. Particularly if your dog is trained to guard your home, it's important to realize that a dog bite can happen with very little warning, even if the person attacked doesn't pose a real threat.

A bicyclist peddling along a rural road outside Delhi, California, was the victim of an attack by several dogs last week. According to Merced County sheriff's officials, five or six dogs, most of which were pit bulls or pit bull mixes, chased the man and pulled him off his bike. They continued to bite his arms, legs and torso until neighbors who heard his screams came to help him. The attack was serious enough to put him in the hospital in serious condition.

The dogs were caught and put in quarantine at an animal control facility. Although they tested negative for rabies, their fate is uncertain. The owner of four of the canines said they act as his guard dogs and are usually kept in his yard. He said that while he was away on vacation someone apparently left the gate open, allowing them to escape.

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