Robert Marinelli sensed danger when a man approached him early Tuesday while he was walking his French bulldog near West Hollywood.
Marinelli reached down to scoop up his pooch, Luca, and flee, but he was struck or pushed. The assailant, a man Marinelli said appeared to be in his 20s, grabbed Luca and jumped into the passenger side of a waiting black sedan parked near Shoreham and Wetherly Drives, a quiet stretch north of Sunset Boulevard.
When Marinelli bolted after the man and tried to reach in the car to pry 8-year-old Luca from his grip, he said the thief slammed the door, briefly catching Marinelli’s jacket.
The interior designer was dragged about 200 yards by the fast-moving vehicle, he said. He was left bloody and shaken, his phone smashed. And Luca was gone.
“Anyone who has a dog understands the dog is like my son,” Marinelli said while recovering from the attack Wednesday after spending six hours in the emergency room. “He’s basically stolen my child.”
Marinelli is the latest victim of a string of violent robberies targeting French bulldogs, which can fetch a high price on the black market.
Most famously, a pair of Lady Gaga’s French bulldogs were abducted in Hollywood in February after her dog walker was shot in the chest. Earlier this month, another woman was robbed at gunpoint of her French bulldog, Mona, not far from where Gaga’s dog walker was brazenly attacked. Several other dogs have been stolen during the year.
The dogs are often sold quickly in plain view in places such as Hollywood Boulevard, Melrose Avenue and the Venice Beach boardwalk, according to Tim Talman, an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department’s Hollywood Division.
Authorities monitored those areas throughout Tuesday to see whether Luca turned up, but he wasn’t recovered, said Talman, who called the project “Locate Luca.”
“This was something very egregious,” Talman said, adding, In this case, “the victim was … I would say, pretty lucky to be alive.”
Though some of the attack was “a blur,” Marinelli said he thinks the man who grabbed Luca was wearing all black with what looked like a red down vest. He said the assailant was of average build and height, and was wearing a mask. It appeared a slender woman was driving the car.
The car was parked in a way that blocked the road, Marinelli said, and he thinks the assailants were waiting for him as he turned left onto Shoreham.
Video of the attack posted by ABC-TV Channel 7 shows Marinelli being dragged on the ground by a speeding car before he’s released and rolls several times on the pavement.
“From my lower back all the way down my leg, the skin was ripped off,” he said. “It looks like I’ve got third-degree burns on my body.”
Talman said he’s hopeful Luca will turn up. The fawn-colored dog with a black mask lost a toe on his front right paw to cancer, making him easily identifiable. He also has a microchip that will send out an alert if he’s brought to a veterinarian.
Marinelli is also offering a $10,000 reward for his dog, which he described as “the love of my life.” Because Luca is relatively old and suffers from medical problems, Marinelli thinks the reward will trump any black market price.
Lady Gaga offered a $500,000 reward for the return of two of her three dogs, which were stolen in February. A woman who eventually turned the animals in to police and was arrested in connection with their theft.
Talman said French bulldogs are usually sold for $3,000 to $5,000 on the street.
“We just really, really want the dog back,” Marinelli said.