The Central Subway has plenty of opponents as it is, but the animal rights contingent is not one we expected to hear from in this fight. As the Examiner points out today, Tom Otterness, the sculptor commissioned by the SFMTA install 59 bronze sculptures throughout the proposed Moscone Station has a recorded history of canicide.

Otterness may be well known at this point for his whimsical sculpted works that dot public plazas both nationally and internationally, but local animal rights groups are having a hard time forgetting a self-explanatory video piece he made in 1977 at the age of 25 titled "Shot Dog Film" in which he adopted a rescue dog, chained it to a fence and shot it. Ostensibly in the name of "art." According to the Examiner, the SFMTA approved Otterness' $750,000 contract based on a recommendation from the Arts Commission.

For their part the SFAC explained they picked Otterness "based on the strength of his proposal and his impressive portfolio of past sculptural work", which is admittedly kind of cute and playful. The Commission has yet to come clean as to whether or not they were aware of the less than cute and playful video piece. [Note: Updated statement from the SFAC below.] (Although, we might point out "Tom Otterness Shot Dog Film" is the second suggested Google result for the artist. So, the due diligence there shouldn't have required too much effort.)

Otterness officially apologized for the misguided work of debatable artistic value to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle back in 2008 saying, "As you must understand this is a very difficult and painful situation for me. Thirty years ago when I was 25 years old, I made a film in which I shot a dog. It was an indefensible act that I am deeply sorry for. Many of us have experienced profound emotional turmoil and despair. Few have made the mistake I made. I hope people can find it in their hearts to forgive me." But that hasn't been enough for the critics: Otterness recently lost another $750,000 contract to install works in New York City's Battery Park after officials caught wind of his history of animal abuse and the wave of petitions and signatures speaking out against him.

UPDATE: Kate Patterson of the San Francisco Arts Commission tells the Chronicle, "the judging panel was not aware of the controversial film when it made its selection in July 2010."

[Tom Otterness]