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UPDATED: Dogs, Woman Pepper Sprayed in Alpine, But Who's at Fault?

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UPDATE: July 2, 2012

At their May 17th court date, Ione Cutter and Lisa Trent had the charges against them dropped by Placer County Deputy District Attorney Bill Doyle.

“We reviewed the police reports, and talked to Lisa,” said Doyle. “There was insufficient evidence to proceed, so we declined to prosecute.”

Doyle admits that the outcome may not satisfy both parties.

“There are rules we live by. Not everybody will always be happy with the results,” he said. “We have to ask, ‘Is there enough evidence to bring to the jury?’ We decided not to prosecute.”

Trent, who was pepper sprayed along with her two dogs, still faces a ticket from Placer County Animal Services for having her dogs off-leash.

Cutter, the pepper-spraying jogger, wrote to Moonshine Ink in an email: “I hope to go back to running in peace.”

ORIGINAL STORY: April 25, 2012

In early April, Ione Cutter was jogging in Alpine Meadows, where she owns a second home, when a large Rottweiler came running out in the street toward her. Scared, she pulled out the canister of pepper spray that she carries with her on her marathon training runs in case of aggressive dogs or bears. When another Rottweiler and a pit bull came at her, she said she flipped the switch and sprayed the air in front of the dogs.

What happened next is where the story gets controversial. The Rottweilers’ owner, Lisa Trent, confronted Cutter. By the time the encounter was over, Trent had been sprayed in the face with pepper spray, both women had called the police, and both pressed charges against the other.

After the UC Davis pepper spraying incident in November, where photos and video of a campus policeman spraying seated Occupy protestors in the face went viral, the orange liquid has made headlines. The event led to the resignation of UC Davis Police Chief Annette Spicuzza this month, as well as the release of a report by a task force headed by a former California Supreme Court justice, which found that pepper spray was used unlawfully against the UC Davis demonstrators.

But pepper spraying in Tahoe?

After spraying the dogs, Cutter said she continued jogging when a large Dodge truck came barreling after her forcing her, into a snow bank. According to Cutter, Trent got out of the car and started screaming at her for spraying her dogs.

"She lost it. She was unreasonable. She was beet-red and jumped out of the truck," said Cutter. "'I was so afraid of her."

So Cutter sprayed Trent with the pepper spray.

"I did not mean to hurt this woman," said Cutter, 50, who is a dog owner and mother of two in Sacramento. "If she hadn’t come at me ... I was afraid she was going to chase me in her truck."

Trent’s side of the story is a little different. She said that after her daughter came running into the house, screaming that a jogger had sprayed their eight-month-old Rottweiler Daisy with something, she jumped in her truck to find the runner and learn why her dog had been sprayed. According to Trent, she wanted to know what was in the pepper spray and wanted to write down Cutter’s contact information. As she opened the car door to reach for a pen and paper, Trent said that’s when Cutter sprayed her. Trent then ran to a neighbor’s house and the neighbor called the police. After she returned home, she took a shower, where the pepper spray fumes made her vomit and she had difficulty breathing. She got scared and called 911, but the medics did not transport her to the hospital.

"I am appalled that a woman would spray my dogs," said Trent, 37, a mother of four. "She violated me. What if it had been a gun or a bat or a Taser?"

Cutter also called the police and both women made a citizen’s arrest against the other. Trent is pressing charges of assault and battery, while Cutter is pressing charges of assault with a vehicle. Placer County Animal Services was called to the scene and ticketed Trent for having her dogs at large. Placer County law requires that dogs be on a leash or under the direct control of their owner at all times. Trent will have to go to court, where she could be fined up to $150.

Captain Jeff Ausnow of the Placer County Sheriff’s Department said that, while uncommon, people do get pepper sprayed in Tahoe on occasion. The most common incident, however, are animals getting sprayed.

"We’ve had joggers spray dogs all the time," he said.

In California, anyone over the age of 18 and not a convicted felon can possess pepper spray — a chemical that irritates the eyes and causes inflammation, tears, and even temporary blindness. Misuse of the spray, which includes using it in anger or as a joke, come with fines of up to $1000 and/or up to three years in prison.

Ausnow said the issue is not whether Cutter had the right to spray the dogs — they were off leash and she felt threatened — but whether she had the right to spray Trent.

"If she was scared it’s understandable," Ausnow said of Cutter using the spray on the dogs. "To determine if spraying Lisa was reasonable that will be up to a judge."

The two women go to court on May 17.

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Reader comments so far...

James Roberts (not verified)
Placer County law requires dogs to be on a leash or under the direct control of the owner at all times. Lisa Trent didn't do this. Instead of taking care of her dogs after they were sprayed, she chased Ione Cutter with her truck and forced her off the road. Cutter had no choice but to defend herself from an aggressive driver who has no respect for pedestrians. Trent's dogs attacked an innocent jogger and then Trent attacked the jogger with her truck. Pedestrians should be able to walk or run on public streets without being intimidated by dogs or people.

TahoeGirly (not verified)
Hmmmm the rottweiler was an 8 month old puppy ... I highly doubt it was acting aggressive in any way ... more than likely playfully running up to her ... and the Cutter story sounds quite different from the dog owner Trent ... the fact that she peppered sprayed the Trent too makes me believe that Cutter is WAYYYYYY out of line and discredits her story quite a bit!!!!! And had absolutely NO valid reason to pepper spray Trent!!!!!

Dog Lover (not verified)
A Pit Bull and two Rotweillers chasing a person is a scary thought. The dog owner then pursued the poor jogger who was within her rights to pepper spray them. Trent broke the law simple as that.

Carla (not verified)
I absolutely love dogs and have three myself. An 8-month old Rott is still a huge dog and depending upon amount of nurturing from the owner, could be aggressive or seem aggressive.....or could be the friendliest, most loving dog in the world....or anywhere in between. The article also says another Rott and a Pitbull came out at her totaling three big dogs. I carry pepper spray when I am out and about. I have sprayed one dog directly as he was leaping at my face with his teeth barred and I have sprayed one dog who repeatedly came at me on my walks in Glenshire...many times with the owner home doing nothing about it. I had both of my dogs up in my arms and squirted one small squirt at the approaching front of him and not on him. In fact, he doesn't even come off the porch when I walk by now. And yes, he was very threatening. There are many, many, times I have been prepared to spray, but didn't because it wasn't warranted as the situation unfolded. We don't know these dogs or these women. Either, or both, of them could be in the wrong. I've got a rescue dog with lots of issues and one of them is acting aggressive toward people (even though it is our sense he won't hurt anyone). We still are overly vigilant in keeping him in control (small dog) because we can see he scares people. He is getting better and better under our guiding care, but it doesn't change how people react to him sometimes.

Eli Meyer (not verified)
My dog was pepper sprayed by a postal deliverer after she aggressively charged him in the bay area a few weeks ago. She was off leash and was just out of reach from me as I was loading my car. I watched in horror as he pulled out a can and sprayed my dog. I immediately apologized to the mailman who was un-phased by the incident. No charges were pressed, no harm was done, and my dog was fine (despite spending the next 5 minutes rubbing the spray off of her face.) I quickly concluded that pepper spray is a highly effective and relatively harmless way to stop a dog from charging. It is the dog owners responsibility to control their dog and not frighten people. I've seen people get very violent and aggressive after relatively mild incidents with their dogs. People need to take responsibility for their dogs and be considerate of people who are intimidated by our canine friends. I really appreciate Placer County's dog laws. It is unfortunate how many people feel it is their right to let their dog run free, despite their dogs behavior. If your dog does not respond to verbal control and acts aggressively towards people or other dogs, then you need to leash your dog.

alpinne resident (not verified)
Well knowing that Mrs. Cutter was beating on an old dog that lived by her a few years ago with a rolled up newspaper and knocked the old dying dog down on the ground and he couldn't get up makes me think this woman has problems that go beyond her being scared of dogs. I think she has way deeper issues that hopefully the judge will see. An air horn would do the same thing since dogs and bears don't like them. She better not jog by my house!

Small female runner (not verified)
WOAH! As a small, female runner who lives in Tahoe and has seen every animal - coyote, bear, dog (pit bulls, etc) - i've never even felt a need to even scream. WTF Cutter?!?! Your kind aren't welcome on our trails because it's people like you - who can't handle yourself around animals - that ruin public access for the rest of humanity. You're an idiot. Did you even try and give the dogs a chance?? Maybe they wanted to play. When I get scared, I say hi and show them my hands - works EVERY time. BEARS?!?! I've chased them up the hill away from me making loud sounds with a stick. Read up on your animals. Chill out. I weigh slightly more than 100 pounds and have never felt threatened by any of the creatures you arm yourself against and are living in fear of. Change your attitude or get out of town. In Tahoe - you'd be more likely to see a dog walking their owner than an owner walking their dog. Leash laws are only on paper and almost every dog I've met off the leash is off because the owner is aware of the amazing demeanor. I can't imagine you're married. If you are, I feel so bad for him and everyone in your life. You sound like a crazy defensive soul. Awful awful is the woman who pepper sprays a puppy.

another Tahoe runner (not verified)
Sounds like you've been pretty lucky! I totally know where this pepper spraying lady is coming from but I don't plan on carrying any pepper spray any time soon. I've been bitten twice by dogs, once for putting my hand out to let them smell me! I love dogs, grew up w/ dogs and know many good dogs (owners) in Tahoe. Here's what I've experienced running on the road and trails in Tahoe. I've completely had to change my route one day when a dog charged at me barking aggressively when I tried to pass his house (owners, nowhere in sight). On a trail this year, I ran past a couple w/ their dog. The dog proceeded to chase me barking aggressively. I stopped (I found this helps these situations) and waited for the owners to call back their dog. They did and I continued my run until the dog chased me again (I assumed the owners would at least grab the dogs collar so I could get by). This happened a 3rd time until I asked the owners to hold on to their dog. I come across many owners that tell me "don't worry he's friendly!" as the dog almost knocks me over charging at me/greeting me in a "friendly" way! I don't mind dogs being off their leash, but if your dog chases strangers friendly or aggressively, this is not acceptable behavior. This is super easy to train, you just have to put in some time! I've seen good owners doing this all the time (the dog is leashed and held back, the owner holds the collar, instructing the dog to stay). The attitude of certain dog owners needs to change. Pepper spray is harsh, but so is getting chased by animal you know nothing about or being bitten. For the dog, if he bites someone else because the owner lost control of their pet. That dog gets reported and there is a chance he'll have to be put down.

Mike Thompson (not verified)
When a person goes for a jog in their neighborhood they should not have to worry about confronting people or animals. She was well within her rights to spray a dog a who comes out into the street to confront her (Regardless of animals intent) The Animals owner tracked her down and confronted her? She is lucky all she got was a dose of pepper spray Seems Law enforcement handled it right, ticket the dog owner for letting her animals harass people.

neighbor/witness (not verified)
The dogs were directly in front of their home in the street,Trent's teenage daughter was loading the truck and dog's were within voice command. Trent also asked for the jogger's info and list of ingredient's in said spray,as she has twin babies in the home.The truck was turned off in the middle of the street nowhere near the snowbank,Cutter's husband is a lawyer and she was coached into saying those things.

Diane Cutter | sacramento ca
Charges against me, Cutter, were dropped and I did not attended the court hearing. On the day of the attack I was defending myself against (three) large attacking dogs and was terrified. I chose to not continue with charges against Trent for chasing me in her truck although the police notified me that I was within my rights to do so. Trent did have to appear and was fined for allowing her two rottweilers to unlawfully roam and assault people in public streets. The owner of the pit bull vacated his rental quickly and before authorities arrived but became aware of the large dog and put out an order for it. It is within a pedestrians rights to prevent attacking dogs from confronting or biting them in public streets, in this case, three dogs. Since that time, there have been other dog bites and the city enforced a crack down with dog catchers, putting an end to the packs of roaming dogs. A few neighbors have expressed and shared their own horror stories of bites, torn clothing and fear while out in the neighborhood before the crackdown. I would like to add that the local law enforcement was wonderful and I can't thank them enough for their effort to solve the problem. ione cutter

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