Public Testifies About Dog Attacks

Wednesday, February 14th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Though a couple claims one of their mastiff-Canary Island dogs played no role in the mauling death of a woman, others described frightening encounters with the animal.

The testimony came Tuesday during a public hearing that a police sergeant will use to decide whether the dog, Hera, should be put to death. A decision is expected within two weeks.

Dianne Wipple, 33, was attacked by the dogs near her apartment door on Jan. 26. The animals lived next door with their owners, Robert Noel and his wife, Marjorie Knoller.

Bane, the dog said to have inflicted Whipple's fatal wounds, was put to death the night of the attack. Hera remains at a city animal welfare facility.

Knoller started to cry Tuesday as she recounted the attack, saying she tried to restrain Bane and protect Whipple by covering her with her own body. She said Bane inflicted Whipple's wounds while Hera merely tugged at her pant leg.

``The behavior was totally out of character for either one of them,'' Noel told Sgt. William Herndon.

But one man testified that Hera bit him when he exited an elevator in their apartment building. David Moser said the couple seemed dismissive of the incident.

``I recall being kind of shocked at their reaction,'' Moser said. ``They didn't seem to discipline the dog.''

Noel disputed the testimony of Moser and that of a letter carrier who said he had to use his mail cart to fend off the dogs in front of the apartment.

Animal control officer Andrea Runge, who was at the scene after the attack, said Hera growled and banged against a closed glass door until they subdued her. Runge described Hera's behavior as ``crazed.''

City prosecutors are trying to determine if Noel and Knoller knew the dogs were vicious — a prerequisite to deciding if charges should be filed against the couple.

Part of that probe is focused on two inmates at Pelican Bay State Prison, who allegedly organized a dog ring that bred animals for fighting contests and to guard illegal drug labs.

The two dogs were part of that ring, according to prison officials. One of the inmates, Paul Schneider, was adopted by Noel and Knoller in January in a process completed three days after Whipple's death.

Noel accused the California Department of Corrections of confiscating photos and other material from Schneider. Noel also said prison officials, with whom he has battled in court for years, disclosed confidential information about himself, Knoller and Schneider.