No luck for Luciano

Luciano, a four-year-old male American Staffordshire Terrier shares the same moniker as well-known gangster Lucky Luciano. However, this Luciano has had nothing but bad luck since he was born.

He was adopted as a puppy by the neighbors of San Diego resident Toni Gonzalez. Poor Luciano was constantly abused by the wife of the neighbor until he was six months old.  He lived on a back patio without a food bowl, a water bowl or shelter from the elements. Toni felt sorry for the dog and looked out for him from her own home.

One night the neighbors moved away and left Luciano on the back patio.  Toni could not bear to see the dog left there abandoned so she took him in. Unfortunately, Toni’s other dog Onyx was aggressive toward Luciano so she had to keep them separated. Other people in the household did not like Luciano and resented his being there. Poor Luciano felt unwanted by everyone except Toni so he tried very hard to get attention from other people in the household even Onyx.

Because Luciano had been starved the first six months of his life and displayed some food aggression. Toni took him to a trainer who said that food aggression is hard to train out of a dog and convincing him he will not be starved again.

One day Toni’s family gave her an ultimatum; she could only keep one dog.   Toni decided to put Luciano up for adoption since he was so friendly and her other dog Onyx was aggressive toward people and other dogs.

A rescue group recommended she take him to The Bear’s Den Boarding and Rescue in the hopes it would lead to a forever home for Luciano. Toni took Luciano to The Bear’s Den Boarding and Rescue in Phelan, California on May 1st 2016 with high hopes that the dog nobody wanted would get adopted.

Luciano was at Bear’s Den from May 1st until October 31st 2016. Toni paid for his boarding and was sending food for him although she is disabled and on a fixed income.  She called the owner of Bear’s Den two weeks prior to the 31st to let her know she was going to pick Luciano up on November 11th, 2016.  Kareen told Toni Luciano had cancer and needed to be euthanized.   Toni refused to have him euthanized and went to pick him up to take him to her own vet in San Diego for a second opinion.

When she picked Luciano up from The Bear’s Den he was in deplorable condition. He was emaciated – having gone from a healthy 70 lbs. to 40 lbs., he was missing some of his teeth and the remaining front teeth and his canine teeth were broken and damaged beyond repair.  He had multiple wounds and injuries and will need multiple surgeries. Per Toni’s vet, Luciano does not have cancer and according to vets, his condition was caused by starvation and being attacked by other dogs multiple times while in boarding for six months.

Since Luciano came home from boarding, he has had to have a portion of dead tissue removed all the way down to the bone from the area of his tibia. Now his tibia is showing but no further surgery can be done until the tissues grows back over that site.  He has also had a skin stretch surgery and will need all four of his canine teeth removed. There was a hole on his right arm which needed stitching. But through it all,  and despite being abused twice at the hands of those that were supposed to care for him, Luciano showed resilience and his true loving attitude by licking the hands of the veterinarian staff as they changed his bandages.

It is not known what exactly transpired at The Bear’s Den Boarding and Rescue but based on the injuries Luciano sustained and the condition of his teeth the San Diego vet  suspects that Luciano may have been used as a bait dog.

Since Luciano’s story went public, several other people have come forward alleging their dogs have also come back from this boarding facility in similar condition to Luciano. Another person’s dog was euthanized while staying there.  There is currently one documented lawsuit pending against facility and reports have been made to the local animal control, humane society and to PETA. No charges have been made against the facility.

Toni reports that although Luciano’s leg bothers him he still wants to go for walks and play. He is currently at the vet’s office in San Diego awaiting his other surgeries. He cannot go back to Toni’s house because of her other dog Onyx.

Toni is looking for someone to adopt Luciano once he is healthy enough to leave the vet’s office by the first week of December.

Luciano before and after his boarding

Luciano before and after his boarding She is adamant that no one will hurt Luciano again and all potential adopters will be thoroughly vetted.

If you can help Toni re-home Luciano, please contact her via email at