All dogs go to heaven. But first, Maddie and Mason are coming home.
The two pit bulls had been ordered destroyed and had been separated from their owners since February, but Santa Barbara County Superior Court Judge Donna Geck ruled Thursday that they can return.
Geck upheld the dangerous dog finding, but will let the dogs live — with restrictions.
“My fur babies are coming back home,” an elated Kristen Figone of Santa Barbara told Noozhawk. “I have been waiting for this. I know my dogs didn’t deserve this since day one. I feel happy. I feel great. I am excited to create new memories with them, other than in this kennel setting.”
The dogs can return home as early as next Thursday, but the dogs’ owners and the city must work out some details regarding restrictions, which consist of modifications to the property to prevent the dogs from getting out or anyone from the outside accessing the property.
“Maddie and Mason proved the sentence they were facing was wrong,” said Kristen Figone, who owns the dogs along with her father, Ed Figone.
City Attorney Ariel Calonne told Noozhawk of the result: “We think a just result was reached.”
Santa Barbara animal control officer Kasi Corbett ordered the pit bull dogs destroyed in February after one of them bit a neighbor on the neck.
“Given the severity of the attack, and the temper and ferocity of Maddie and Mason, it is our decision that this dog be humanely destroyed,” Sgt. Kasi Corbett, the animal control hearing officer, wrote at the time.
It was unclear which of the two dogs took bit the man, so both were ordered destroyed.
The Figones said the dogs were provoked. Although Mason is full American staffordshire terrier, and Maddie is 50/50 Rottweiler and American staffordshire terrier, they are considered pit bulls, which Kristen said biased animal control against the dogs.
The owners filed an appeal of Corbett’s decision that was heard in a two-day virtual hearing Wednesday and Thursday.
On Feb. 8, according to court documents, Biancone walked over to the Figone house to inform Ed Figone that part of a shared fenced had burned. Ed Figone told Noozhawk that the night before, a tenant at the Olive Street property tipped a candle that burned a portion of shared bamboo fence.
When neighborh Michael Biancone tried to unlatch a small metal gate, he saw the dogs charge him.
According to the City of Santa Barbara’s brief for the hearing, when Biancone extended his hand to greet the dogs, one of the dogs bit his hand. One of the dogs also lunged at his neck.
Biancone was taken to a hospital for treatment of a Level 2 Trauma bite. He required extensive sutures, according to the city’s account. Biancone did not respond to Noozhawk questions regarding the lawsuit and appeal.
On Feb. 13, the Figones received notice from Santa Barbara Police Chief Lori Luhnow that the dogs were ordered destroyed because they are vicious. A dog is considered vicious if it attacks or bites at the neck and head, according to animal control.
The Figones, however, hired an attorney and took the matter to court. They contended that their dogs were not vicious. Mason is 6, and Maddie is 7 years old.
They said the dogs had never had a biting incident with neither a human nor animal and had never escaped or tried to escape the property. Kristen Figone said she regularly walked the dogs along Cabrillo Boulevard, APS road, on the Mesa, through San Roque, up hiking trials and even to the wineries in the Funk Zone.