The grieving owner of Baby Girl, the 2-year-old pit bull killed by police on Staten Island earlier this month, is suing the city and the officer who fired the shots.
The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, was being filed in Brooklyn Federal Court on Monday, the New York Daily News reported.
Baby Girl’s owner, Patricia Ratz, took her and two other pit bulls for walk at Schmul Park on April 6. When the two other dogs — Bo and Missy — began snapping at each other, Ratz intervened and was bitten.
Police say she was screaming for help when an officer arrived.
The lawsuit says more than 10 shots were fired at the dogs, one of which hit Baby Girl, who was running away from the ruckus, in the back. She died five days later. Police say the officer, who is still on active duty, fired seven times when the dog charged her.
“We are seeking to fundamentally change the way the NYPD deals with pets,” he said. “When a dog is fleeing the scene, it’s because the doggie is afraid, not because the dog is concerned about getting arrested. That’s the reason people flee, not doggies.”
(Photos: A photo of Baby Girl posted at a memorial for her at Schmul Park in Staten Island; Patricia Ratz and fiancé Pat Guglielmo, along with their dog Bo; by Mark Bonifacio / New York Daily News)
Posted by jwoestendiek April 30th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, baby girl, courts, dogs, killed, lawsuit, new york, officer, patricia ratz, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, police, schmul park, shot, staten island, suit
A dogfighting suspect awaiting trial was ordered Friday to help pay for the care of more than two dozen pit bulls seized from his property in Charlotte.
Lefonze Williams, 42, was ordered Friday to pay more than $13,000 to help feed and house 26 dogs and eight puppies, five of which are still being weaned by their mother, the Charlotte Observer reported.
If Williams doesn’t pay for the care of the animals — now being kept at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg animal shelter — his ownership will be forfeited, and the dogs, if unable to be adopted, will be euthanized.
During Friday’s hearing, Mecklenburg Assistant District Attorney Nathan Brooks told the judge that at least 11 of Williams’ dogs had injuries consistent with dogfighting, adding, “He has no business owning that many dogs… He’s not properly caring for them.”
Defense attorney Kevin Barnett said Williams could not afford to pay the fee, and asked the judge to allow the pit bulls to be returned to their owner.
“He loves his dogs,” Barnett told Superior Court Judge Hugh Lewis. Barnett said Williams is a not a dogfighter, just a dog breeder, and that some of his dogs were bought from Russia and Europe.
Judge Lewis noted the fee for the dogs’s care “seems large,” but said anyone who can pay to bring dogs to North Carolina from Russia should be able to afford it.
Prosecutors had asked permission to move the dogs out of the shelter and into a private kennel, and argued that Williams should be held responsible for paying for the care they would receive there.
Animal advocates have voiced concerns that the dogs seized from Williams — and 14 other pit bulls being held at the shelter in connection with another dogfighting bust — could lead to increased euthanization of the shelter’s other residents because of limited space.
Posted by jwoestendiek April 15th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, breeder, care, charlotte, courts, dog fighter, dog fighting, dogfighter, dogfighting, dogs, food, judge, lefonze williams, mecklenburg, order, pay, pets, pit bulls, pitbulls, seized, shelter, trial
As often as we bring you stories of police officers shooting dogs, it’s only right that we pass along news of cops who go out of their way to help one.
Seattle police officer Eric Michl went pretty far out of his way – helping to find a temporary home for the dog of a man he arrested, and driving on his day off from Seattle to Vancouver to place the dog with a foster family.
Last month, Michl pulled over a van that had changed lanes without signaling and arrested the driver, Juan Crespo, on a charge of driving under the influence. Crespo, the officer learned, also had a warrant from San Diego, where he was wanted for burglary. Also in the van was Crespo’s dog — a German shepherd named Liana — who had commited no offense.
Michl loaded her into the back of his police car and, as Crespo was being booked, drove her to the Seattle Animal Shelter.
On the way, Liana stuck her nose through the partition and licked his ear.
San Diego, it turned out, wanted Crespo extradited, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Between that attempt, which Crespo is fighting, and the local charges, it looked like it would be a while before his court cases came to a conclusion — far longer than the amount of time the Seattle Animal Shelter keeps unclaimed dogs.
That weighed on Michl. He checked with the shelter to see if it could hold Liana for the duration of Crespo’s court case. It couldn’t. That’s when Michl contacted Crespo’s defense attorney. Highly irregular. And highly cool.
“I just felt really bad that this dog and her owner would have to be separated,” Michl said. ” … Separating her from her owner would be an injustice. It wouldn’t be fair for the dog and for him.”
Working with the defense attorney, Megan Giske, Michl tried to locate someone from Crespo’s family to foster Liana, but they couldn’t find an appropriate home.
That’s when Michl turned to Facebook.
“She deserves a chance to live a full and happy life,” he wrote in a post. “If you know of anyone interested, please get a hold of me. I can provide details of her evaluation by the kennel manager.”
This past weekend, a friend of the suspect’s sister agreed to take Liana until Crespo is released.
The Seattle Animal Shelter gave Liana vaccinations and installed a microchip, waiving any fees.
He met the new foster parents at the Vancouver police station, and he reports that the friend, her two children and Liana all appeared happy with the new arrangement.
What got into Michl? And why can’t more police officers show canines that kind of compassion? We can’t answer the second question, but the Post-Intelligencer article provides some insight into the first.
In an interview, Michl spoke of his dog, Tommy, who died last last April. When Michl had to leave his son alone for nighttime patrols, Tommy, a black Lab, would sleep on his bed. Tommy died at age 8 of cancer, but the memory of him is still strong.
“Your dogs never leave you, no matter what,” Michl said.
Maybe it was that memory, or the lick from Liana while she was in the backseat. Perhaps even Crespo entered into the equation as well. Maybe, while Michl went far beyond the call of duty, it was just smart police work.
“I’m hoping once he’s out of jail he’ll remember that someone cared enough to do this for him and his dog.”
(Photos: Courtesy of Eric Michl, via Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
Posted by jwoestendiek March 6th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal shelter, animals, arrest, attorney, beyond, burglary, call of duty, compassion, courts, dog, dogs, drunk driving, duty, eric michl, extradition, facebook, family, foster, german shepherd, good cop, juan crespo, law enforcement, liana, officer, pets, police, seattle, shelter, suspect, vancouver
The Maryland House of Delegates yesterday approved a bill that would make it easier to hold all dog owners accountable for injuries caused by their pets — not just those who own pit bulls.
The Washington Post reports that the measure provides “a small measure of victory to pit bull owners,” whose dogs had been singled out by a Maryland court last spring as “inherently dangerous.”
The bill effectively overturns the Maryland Court of Appeals decision, Tracey v. Solesky, which stemmed from a 2007 incident in which a pit bull mauled a 10-year-old Towson boy.
The measure approved by the house Thursday would make it easier to hold all dog owners liable for injuries caused by their pets. In the past, plaintiffs suing the owners of dogs had to prove the dog was dangerous. Now it will be up to dog owners in liability cases to prove in court that their dog is not dangerous.
The 2012 court decision made owners of pit bulls, and their landlords, automatically liable in the event that their dog bit or injured someone.
Animal rights groups protested the appeals court decision, saying it was leading to dogs being euthanized and tenants being forced to surrender their dogs or move. The House bill does not contain breed-specific language.
Posted by jwoestendiek February 22nd, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, breed-specific, burden of proof, courts, dangerous, dog bites, dogs, house of delegates, inherent, inherently dangerous, law, lawsuits, legislation, liability, maryland, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls
After a Valentine’s Day hearing, a Texas judge will decide who should have custody of Victory, a bearded collie who is missing her nose.
Victory was found last month wandering in Hutto, Texas, outside of Austin. Her fur was heavily matted. She’d sustained puncture wounds. And her nose appeared to have been cut off.
Since then, an owner has stepped forward, saying Victory (not her original name) had run off a month earlier, and that the loss of her nose was the result of an autoimmune illness she was being treated for.
After she was found, the 4-year-old dog was treated by a local veterinarian, then placed in a foster home by Austin Pets Alive, which began a fundraising campaign and raised $2,000 for the dog to undergo skin graft surgery on her nose last week.
The surgery was canceled after a man called saying he owned her and wanted her back, said Laura Stromberg Hoke, a spokeswoman for Austin Pets Alive.
A judge will hear the matter Thursday, deciding whether the dog should be returned to her owner or remain with Austin Pets Alive, according to the Austin American-Statesman. No charges have been filed in the case, but police say they “wanted a judge to hear the information they had gathered during the investigation.”
Hutto animal control officers found the dog Jan. 9, and initially suspected she’d been the victim of abuse. The owners of the dog — who authorities refused to name — said she had run away around New Year’s, according to Hutto Police Chief Peter Scheets.
Police say they are still investigating whether the dog lost her nose due to medical neglect or abuse. Veterinary records show that the dog was last treated for lupus nine months ago but had no follow-up treatment, the police chief said.
One type of lupus that occurs in dogs can cause redness, scabs and ulcerations on a dog’s nose.
Scheets said there is also a possibility that the dog was injured after she escaped from her home and before she was discovered by police.
The hearing is open to the public and will be at 4 p.m. Thursday (Feb 14) in Hutto Municipal Court, 401 W. Front St.
You can find an update on this story here.
(Photo: Austin Pets Alive)
Posted by jwoestendiek February 13th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animal cruelty, animals, austin, austin pets alive, bearded collie, courts, custody, cut off, disease, dog with no nose, dogs, foster, found, hutto, investigation, lupus, missing, no nose, nose, noseless, owner, pets, texas, victory
Jordan Biggs, the Oregon State University student who found a dog on the loose in Portland, took him home, and refused to give him back to his owner, is on the verge of giving up her fight for custody of the husky mix she named Bear.
The Portland Oregonian reports that Biggs, – facing $30,000 worth of legal bills and a possible felony conviction — has agreed to plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge of second-degree theft, serve 80 hours of community service, and concede that the dog is not hers.
If she meets those conditions, the charge would be expunged from her record after six months, allowing the 20-year-old to continue with her plans to become a teacher.
Biggs was visiting Portland when she found the dog and took him home to Corvallis.
More than a year later, the dog’s original owner, Sam Hanson-Fleming, spotted Biggs and the dog he knew as Chase in Southeast Portland.
County animal control officials ruled that the dog belonged to Hanson-Fleming, who said his dog had jumped a fence and run away. But Biggs still refused to relinquish custody of the dog.
In July of last year, police in Corvallis seized the dog and charged Biggs with theft. Bear, or Chase, spent 75 days in a shelter after that — until a judge in October ordered the dog returned to Hanson-Fleming.
Biggs filed a lawsuit seeking to regain custody of the dog, who she trained to serve as an asthma therapy dog, alerting her to oncoming asthma attacks. As part of her plea agreement, the lawsuit would be dropped.
Both Biggs and Hanson-Fleming find the apparent outcome of the case less than acceptable.
“There is no way she should not have to have this on her record — she’s a thief,” Hanson-Fleming said. “It’s no different than if you went to Walmart and stole a bunch of shirts. … She should be treated like any other criminal.”
Posted by jwoestendiek January 30th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: agreement, animals, asthma, bear, chase, corvallis, courts, custody, deal, dispute, dog, dogs, found, husky, jordan biggs, judge, lost, mix, oregon, oregon state university, owner, pets, plea, portland, sam hanson-fleming, student, therapy
A week before Thanksgiving, a Plymouth District Court judge granted the dog — owned by a 38-year-old Marshfield woman — the protection of a restraining order from a violent ex-boyfriend.
We like this law, and suggest other states take a look at it, including Alabama.
In the Massachusetts case, the dog is now in foster care, while the woman and her two-year-old daughter are staying in a domestic violence shelter at an undisclosed, out-of-state location.
“(She) feared that her boyfriend might try to take the dog, and she stated that he had already kicked and dragged the dog in the past,” said Deni Michele Goldman, Marshfield’s animal control officer.
“This new law allows a judge to award the possession of an animal to the victim and to prohibit the accused from abusing, threatening or taking the pet,” Goldman told the Taunton Daily Gazette.
“I give her updates by phone. And once she gets settled into a safe place, she will have her dog again,” said Goldman, who is the spokeswoman for the Animal Control Officers Association of Massachusetts.
The woman had filed for a restraining order in September just weeks after Gov. Deval Patrick signed an animal protection bill creating a safety net for pets caught up in domestic violence situations. The bill also instituted a statewide spay and neuter program and required training for animal control officers.
Goldman said that that more than 70 percent of abused women report that their batterers have threatened to hurt or kill their pets.
(Photo: Marshfield Animal Control)
Posted by jwoestendiek November 28th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal control, animals, courts, custody, dogs, domestic violence, first, judge plymouth, labrador, law, marshfield, massachusetts, mix, panzer, pets, protection, rescues, restraining orders, shelters, state, violence
In Colorado, victims and witnesses who might, for various reasons, have trouble sharing details of a crime with a police officer now have another option — Pella, a Labrador-golden retriever mix who is both kid-friendly and judgment-free.
Pella began her service with the Aurora Police Department this summer, and while she doesn’t track down criminals, the hope is she can help put them behind bars.
Her main role is to work with children and developmentally-disabled adults during the beginnings of investigations, providing some comfort and emotional support when they are interviewed by authorities.
“It’s hard for anyone regardless of their state in life, their age, their background, their ethnicity … to talk to police. It’s just an uncomfortable situation. Pella can just help that anxiety to lessen a bit,” Amber Urban, who’s behind the program, told 9 News in Denver.
Urban was working as a school-resource officer when she started pondering how dogs — outside of tracking suspects and detecting drugs — could help the legal system.
Through Paws Assisting the Legal System, she brought Pella to the Aurora Police Department to work with its Crimes Against Children Unit.
The program is similar to the Courthouse Dogs program that is already in place in other cities.
Pella works a lot at SungateKids, a center where forensic interviewers talk to kids and adults who have either witnessed a crime or been victims of one.
“They’re here to talk about things that are traumatic. They, depending on their age, may not have that recognition of it being traumatic, but they feel it,” Urban said.
Children often pet Pella and hold on to her leash while they’re talking.
“…It’s a little bit better of a connection for a lot of kids to be able to interact with the dog who has no judgment, no opinion. The kids see that and they’re like, ‘Wow, they just like me.’”
Posted by jwoestendiek November 9th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: amber urban, aurora, aurora police department, children, colorado, comfort, courthouse dogs, courts, crimes, developmentally disabled, emotional, golden retriever, labrador retriever, law enforcement, pals, paws assisting the legal system, pella, sungate kids, support, victims, witnesses
The outdated legal view of dogs as easily-replaceable “property” — worth no more than you paid for them — is slowly beginning to catch up with the times.
The latest indication of a change in judicial thinking came last week when California’s Second District Court of Appeals ruled that pets are fundamentally different than other forms of property.
“Given . . . the reality that animals are living creatures, the usual standard of recovery for damaged personal property — market value — is inadequate when applied to injured pets,” Justice Kathryn Doi Todd wrote in her opinion.
She added, “Animals are special, sentient beings, (and) unlike other forms of property, animals feel pain, suffer and die.”
The Court of Appeals ruling came in the consolidated cases of two pet owners — one whose dog was shot by a neighbor, and one whose dog was injured by veterinary negligence. Lower courts had ruled they were entitled to no more than the market value of their pets.
The appeals court decision reversed both cases. The new ruling permits owners of wrongfully injured pets to recover the “reasonable and necessary costs” of treating and caring for an injured animal, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), which had filed amicus briefs in the case.
The first case involved a German Shepherd named Gunner, who was shot by a neighbor and whose leg had to be amputated, costing his family more than $20,000. The second case involved a Golden Retriever named Katie, whose intestine was nicked during a surgical procedure. The vet also left a piece of gauze in her body. The errors led to the dog having to receive emergency surgery that cost Katie’s family more than $37,000.
In both cases, the trial court limited the plaintiffs’ recovery to a fraction of what they spent to nurse them back to health — namely, their dogs’ market value.
“This decision is a significant step forward for companion animals and their guardians,” said Matthew Liebman, ALDF senior attorney. “The legal system is finally starting to catch up with how the majority of people feel about the animals with whom they share their lives.”
Posted by jwoestendiek October 29th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: aldf, animal, animal legal defense fund, appeals, court, courts, dog, dogs, german shepherd, golden retriever, gunner, injuries, judicial, kathryn doi todd, katie, law, lawsuits, legal, market value, pets, property, ruling, value, view, wrongful
A year and a half after a starved pit bull was found at the bottom of a trash chute at a Newark high rise apartment — looking more like a corpse than a pet — the dog who would go on to be named Patrick is doing great.
Progressing far less quickly are court case against his former owner, and a proposed bill, named after Patrick, that would bring stiffer penalties against those who abuse and neglect animals.
Patrick’s Law would increase penalties against those who abuse and neglect animals. Last week, it cleared the New Jersey Senate Economic Growth Committee, but it still requires approval by another committee and both houses of the legislature.
The bill (S1303) would make certain acts of neglect and abuse fourth-degree offenses and increases the civil penalties — up to $3,000 for a first offense and $5,000 for a second offense, according to NJ.com. If an animal dies, offenders could be charge with a third-degree crime, which carries stricter penalties.
Sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., it would also increase the penalties for dogfighting; failing to provide an animal with proper food, water and shelter; and leaving animals unattended in hot cars.
Patrick was found in March 2011 in a garbage chute at Garden Spires.
His former owner, Newark resident Kisha Curtis, was charged with animal cruelty and remains free on $10,000 bond. Curtis has entered a plea of not guilty and has rejected a plea deal under which she would serve 18 months in prison, pay a $5,000 fine and serve 30 days of community service.
Instead, she wants to enter a pretrial intervention program,which would involve no jail time and, once completed, leave her without a record.
That’s now under consideration by Newark Superior Court Judge Joseph Cassini III, who agreed last month to review documents from the Department of Children and Family Services regarding Curtis and her childhood.
Curtis admits to abandoning Patrick, but says she “never harmed” the dog and that she had only had him for a few days. She is not accused of throwing the dog down the chute, only of neglecting and abandoning him.
Patrick, meanwhile — after months of veterinary care and intensive rehabilitation at Garden State Veterinary Specialists in Tinton Falls, N.J.– is happy and healthy.
Who will eventually be awarded custody of him is still at issue, but it definitely won’t be Kisha Curtis.
(Photo: Tony Kurdzuk / The Newark Star-Ledger)
Posted by jwoestendiek September 21st, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, animal cruelty, animals, apartment, bill, chute, court case, courts, crime, cruelty to animals, davis, dogs, garbage, garden state veterinary specialists, high rise, kisha curtis, law, legislature, neglect, new jersey, newark, patrick, patrick's law, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, proposal, starvation, starved, starving, trash