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If news is defined as man bites dog, then start the presses. This is a story of a man charged with two felony counts of animal abuse for biting his dog. His name is Stephen Maul, and his dog’s name is Boo. The San Francisco district attorney’s office makes no bones about it. It comes down hard on dog biters. “It was violent and egregious,” said Assistant District Attorney Carol Lankford-Gross. Maul is accused of not once but twice holding Boo down on the street and biting his neck. He admits he did it. Boo, an 80-pound, 10-month-old Labrador mix, bolted from his master and needed to be taught a lesson, Maul insisted. “I was trying to tell him that it was not good to run off,” Maul said over coffee this week. “I kept saying, ‘No, bad dog. Bad dog.’ “ Unfortunately for Maul, there were witnesses. What he called training, they called mayhem. Animal control officers were summoned and called police, who arrested Maul. Maul’s attorney, Jasper Monti, argues that neck-biting is an accepted technique for training dogs. Their wolf ancestors use it to maintain pack hierarchy. Monti, a San Francisco sole practitioner, said dogs respond to neck bites from alpha males asserting their dominance and from mothers teaching pups proper behavior. “You don’t try to teach the dog English,” he said. “You communicate the way the dog understands.” The attorney said the practice is recommended in the book “Mother Knows Best: The Natural Way To Train Your Dog” by Carol Lea Benjamin. “It’s not a bite to injure,” Monti said. “It’s a way of instilling in the dog the structure the owner wants.” A preliminary hearing in People v. Maul, 1943930, is scheduled for Nov. 6 in San Francisco Superior Court to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to try the dog owner on the animal abuse charges. Maul will not plead out, his attorney insisted. He will go for the full Monti trial. Maul, 24, drives a truck. He got Boo from some friends in Washington state. He can’t understand what the fuss is about. “My dog’s the coolest,” he said. “He’s just like Marmaduke. Everyone in the neighborhood loves him.” Maul said his technique for disciplining Boo is to hold his nose down to the street and say “Bad dog.” Then he pinches the loose skin on the back of Boo’s neck between his thumb and forefinger and lightly bites it. “I had the dog able to heel after three months,” he said of his training success. Monti thinks those who accuse his client of animal cruelty are barking up the wrong tree. “I took this case because I have a person who was trying to do the best thing for his dog,” the lawyer growled. “And he’s been berated by people whose view of dogs is filtered through the eyes of Walt Disney.” Monti said choke or electric shock collars are far more cruel than a nip on the neck to keep a canine out of the dog house. Boo, meanwhile, remains in protective custody at the city dog pound, awaiting his master’s fate.

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