Video clears man in puppy abuse trial

A man who was accused of stomping on his puppy and dragging it by the leash was acquitted after video evidence contradicted testimony from a woman who took the dog from him, the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office announced Wednesday.

Donald Barros, 55, was found not guilty Friday of one count of misdemeanor animal abuse, according to his attorney, Deputy Public Defender Landon Davis.

Barros was arrested on July 31 while walking near Fifth and Market streets with his 2-month-old puppy, China.

A passerby confronted him after the dog became tangled up in Barros’ legs and he stepped on her, causing her to squeal. He pulled hard on the leash to untangle her, defense attorneys said.

The passerby, a 27-year-old woman, first asked Barros to sell her the puppy for $20. Then, while Barros was talking to her boyfriend and other onlookers, she snatched the dog from his hands and fled into the Westfield Shopping Center with it, telling another woman to call 911 because Barros had tried to kill the dog, defense attorneys said.

Police arrested Barros after talking to other witnesses and eventually tracked down the woman through a Craigslist ad she posted in which she stated that she had rescued the puppy from “a homeless crackhead.”

She stated that the puppy had been stolen in the ad and asked the dog’s owners to contact her, but later testified in court that she had given the dog to a friend in Seattle, defense attorneys said.

Surveillance video footage shown to jurors showed that while Barros did pull hard on the leash, he stepped on her by accident when she became entangled with his feet and he did not dangle her, as the woman alleged, according to defense attorneys. The dog was not injured in the incident.

Davis said that witness accounts may have been affected by bias since Barros, a live-in caregiver for his parents, is a partially blind black man with long, unruly hair and one working eye:

“People assumed the worst based on Mr. Barros’ outward appearance and it led to a woman snatching his much loved pet from his arms and labeling him a crackhead.”

Barros signed a form while he was in custody surrendering his rights to China. Defense attorneys said he is illiterate and believed he was authorizing a temperament test for the dog.