Jeremiah Gerbracht has beat the rap five times, and he’s still counting.
Gerbracht faces charges for the sixth time of riding his motorcycle with his dog, Lady Harley. The powers that be have deemed the practice unsafe, and although a series of judges have disagreed, city prosecutors keep trying.
For his part, the 58-year-old Woodland Hills resident is surprisingly content. He seems to thrive on the attention that his unusual story has generated in publications ranging from the New York Times to People magazine.
“The city is now wasting thousands of dollars,” he said. “Can you imagine hiring 12 people to decide if a hearing-impaired person can have a service dog on a motorcycle?”
In mid-March, Gerbracht faces trial on a charge of violating a city municipal code that prohibits transporting animals unsafely.
Since 1995, Gerbracht has been cited five times--four times by the Los Angeles Police Department and once by the California Highway Patrol--for riding his Harley with Lady Harley, allegedly in violation of state vehicle codes that prohibit unsafe loads, or passengers riding on something not designed for them.
Judges threw out the cases after determining the codes do not refer to animals or apply to Gerbracht.
All along, Gerbracht’s defense has been that he has a hearing impairment and that Lady Harley is his service dog. He said he occasionally loses the ability to hear high frequencies, a condition authenticated by a physician’s letter. When his hearing goes, he pats the Siberian husky riding on the gas tank and the dog signals him if an emergency vehicle with loud sirens is approaching, he said.
But this time city attorneys believe they have a good case against Gerbracht.
“We realized this was a case for us to get involved,” said Deputy City Atty. Robert Ferber. “He is putting his animal in danger.”
Gerbracht, a retired animal trainer who lives alone with Lady Harley, said he has spent more than $10,000 to customize his Harley-Davidson FLTC for the dog. He raised the bike’s handlebars, tucked away wiring and installed double-thick heat shields to protect the dog’s paws and tail from getting burned. The bike also has a “mister” that keeps the 75-pound husky cool.
Gerbracht said Lady Harley has never fallen off the motorcycle or been injured.
In court this time, Gerbracht may have new ammunition in the form of a character reference.
Last year, Councilwoman Laura Chick presented Gerbracht with a proclamation, signed by Mayor Richard Riordan, celebrating Lady Harley as the Valley’s own “motorcycle-riding dog.” Gerbracht’s attorneys plan to subpoena both Chick and Riordan for the coming trial, he said.
Gerbracht, a semiretired actor, said publicity helps him achieve his desire to make movies about his life.
“It’s a good-time, human-interest story,” Gerbracht said. “These are real life events playing out like a movie, so why not make it a movie?”