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Reprieve, With Conditions, for Attack Pit Bull

The dog involved in the killing of a Yorkshire Terrier last week will not be put down.

A pit bull that a Yorkshire Terrier in Tarrytown last month will not be put down according to a court ruling issued this afternoon.

However, the animal will be subject to a number of conditions and evaluations before it can be released from an animal shelter in New Rochelle.

The decision was handed down Thursday by Village Justice Kyle McGovern, who presided over a two-hour hearing regarding the fate of the dog and whether it could be deemed "dangerous" under the New York State Agriculture and Markets Law.

The owner of the dog, Charles Harris, pled guilty to two counts of having his animals at large in the neighborhood, admitting that both his pit bull and mastiff mix had not been on a leash at the time of the attack. While he was given a $500 fine for the village-code infraction, he vigorously protested that one of his dogs, a blue nosed pit bull, should be put down as a result of the incident.

"I am here to dispute that my dog is a dangerous dog," Harris said."It's an animal without a history of aggression. I, as the owner, take full responsibility."

During witness testimony, the nature of the attack was laid out in graphic detail. Patricia Bucci, the Yorkshire Terrier's owner, said she saw both the pit bull and mastiff dog running toward her in an aggressive manner with hardly any warning. The pit bull then grabbed the Terrier in its jaws and shook it violently.

"It was devestating," Bucci said. "I felt guilty I couldn't help him."

The attack lasted a minute or two, despite the efforts of a neighbor attempting the kick the dog into letting the Terrier go. The Terrier died as a result of the injuries it sustained. Both the pit bull and the mastiff then sprinted off after the attack. They were later found in a garage over a mile away from the intersection of Union Avenue and Sunnyside Avenue, where the incident occurred.

Four witnesses took the stand to support the time line and details of the attack. Harris also took the stand in his dog's defense, and took the time to apologize to Bucci, saying he would do whatever he could to ameliorate the situation. Harris also called his father to testify on the temperament of the dog, but it didn't serve his cause well.

During both Charles and his father's testimony, it was revealed that the dog had attacked and drew blood from another dog during a dispute over a bone about eight months ago. When Charles attempted to break the dogs up, the pit bull bit him as well.

Village Justice McGovern noted that, had that incident been brought to court, the dog would most likely have been put down as a result of its latest actions. However, because the injury Charles Harris sustained in the incident was minor, and was not brought to the attention of the court at an earlier time, the incident didn't swing the decision in favor of euthanasia. 

McGovern found that the Village had proved its case that the dog was dangerous, but that it could continue to live with a number of conditions. The dog will have to be neutered, micro-chipped and evaluated by a behaviorist. The animal will also need to be muzzled anytime it is outside or in public.

"If you don't follow my order, you can be charged with criminal contempt of a court order," McGovern warned Harris in his closing statements.

Willie Lester June 10, 2011 at 06:34 PM
I agree with everything Dr Green said. This will happen again. If not here then somewhere else. Running from the problem will not fix the problem. Will the muzzle ruling stay in place in a different state? I know the owner. He is not resposiable. The second he moves the dog will be running the streets again. If this dog attacks again, which it will, the owner needs to spend time in jail.
John June 10, 2011 at 06:35 PM
Dr. Green. It was mandated that the dog be neutered. In your experience, will this actually do anything to "calm" a dog of any breed? It didn't work on my boxer..... lol.
Brian Green June 10, 2011 at 07:19 PM
Neutering an adult dog who has already established his personality and whatever degree of 'maleness' will do nothing to alter his personality. It could theoretically lower aggression but it never seems to once over 15-18 months of age. This dog KILLED another dog, not that common in your average neighborhood dog!
Heron June 11, 2011 at 12:05 AM
Dr. Green - It sounds like they should have asked you to testify at the hearing. I wish they had.
Brian Green June 12, 2011 at 04:59 PM
Heron, I was actually stunned to read that a hearing had taken place, and judgement rendered, without my having been asked to testify. I mean, the poor Yorkie was brought to me to examine to try to save, but it unfortunately had already died of its severe wounds, which I won't describe here. But had the judge heard what I witnessed, his judgment may have been otherwise. I am not an advocate of euthanasia in most instances on a first attack, but this wasn't the first, and I assure you, it will not be the last.

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