Governments: Don’t ever mess with grieving dog-owners. You never know what gaping holes in your legal code they might expose.
The International Business Times reports that despite dog-on-dog attacks being on New York State’s books and the requirement that local governments create laws at least as strict as the state’s, New York City has much weaker protections in place.
The investigative report follows Laura Schneider, a Greenpoint resident who lost her one-year-old pomeranian Arlo in a dog attack. Schneider, rebuffed at every turn by the SPCA, The Health Department, and the Police Department, has been collecting signatures to force the city into giving her a “dangerous dog hearing.”
The Health Department defines a dangerous dog as one that “menaces, threatens, attacks or bites a person,” even though state regulations go much further.
The irony here is that the city’s administrative code is actually much stronger than the state’s rules governing dog attacks, but because dangerous dog hearings are held by the Health Department, Schneider had no recourse but to take matters into her own hands and circulate a petition.
On top of the thinness of the sanctions against irresponsible dog-owners, there’s no incentive even for attorneys to take on dangerous-dog cases. Dog-on-dog cases require a “first case” to get the judge to order the dog muzzled. Basically, if there isn’t already a first attack on the books, the case gets thrown out. Catch: Meet 22.
Personal injury lawyer Eric Turkewitz, who has been asked to participate in dog-on-dog cases and declined, tells the Voice that representing bereaved owners is a financial non-starter. “You know what they call a lawyer that takes bad cases on contingency? Bankrupt.” says Turkewitz.
The NYC Economic Development Corporation estimates that 600,000 dogs are kept as pets in the city. That’s as many as 600,000 grieving, pissed-off owners if the city doesn’t plug this hole in its laws.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 22, 2013