Shared from the 11/27/2018 Albany Times Union eEdition


Troy considering dog law changes

Council member says city law may be too strict, calls meeting


What makes adog dangerous?

City officials are wrestling with that question in response to public outrage over Troy’s existing law that resulted in a canine facing euthanasia.

“We need to be a little more flexible. We’re looking into the one-bite penalty,” Councilman David Bissember, D-5th District, said Monday.

Any changes to the law won’t help Luna, a 6-year-old mixed breed that bit another dog and its owner on Oct. 25. Luna was declared dangerous and ordered euthanized under the current law. Luna is being held at the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society in Menands while an appeal of her sentence is pending.

The appeal was filed Nov. 21 in City Court. Luna likely has at least few more months to live as the case makes its way through the legal process before Rensselaer County Court Judge Jennifer Sober, said Jonathan Schopf, the humane society’s attorney.

Bissember called a meeting for Dec. 4 to review the current ordinance, which was written in 2006.

One possibility is changing the language in the dangerous-dog ordinance to give judges and animal control officers more flexibility in considering how to enforce the law, said Bissember, who chairs the Public Safety Committee.

Bissember said the modification would be to drop the confusing words “shall may” with just “may” so the ordinance reads, “Any dangerous dog which attacks a human being or animal may be ordered destroyed.”

The Public Safety Committee will investigate setting a two-bite offense for declaring a dog dangerous instead of the current first-time offense, Bissember said.

The councilman pointed to the San Diego dangerous-dog law that classifies a canine dangerous if it attacks or bites two people within 48 months or has “attacked or bitten an person causing substantial injury or death.”

“We’re working on a specific definition for when a dog is defined as dangerous. What are the procedures to determine if a dog is dangerous?” Bissember said.

Schopf said going to a two-bite criteria would bring Troy’s ordinance in line with the state’s Agriculture and Markets Law.

Mayor Patrick Madden’s administration will work with the council on developing legislation, said John Salka, a mayoral spokesman.

“The Luna situation is something that has gotten a lot of exposure. We need to do the right thing for the public,” City Council President Carmella Mantello said.

City officials consider a review of the dog ordinance critical as plans develop for a dog park. Bissember said clarifying the ordinance and making adjustments would help prevent the controversies surrounding the current law.

Mantello said the police, animal control, dog owners and the dog park task force have to be involved in discussions with the City Council about the city’s response to dogs that bite people. She advised against rushing to a conclusion in order to make sure the redrafted law is clear and acceptable.

Bissember said the rewritten law won’t have an impact on Luna’s case.

Luna was ordered destroyed after a hearing in City Court in which her owner, Cade Saba, turned down a set of conditions for avoiding euthanasia as being unaffordable. This led her attorney Margaret Donnelly to secure a stay of the order that would have resulted in Luna’s demise.

Donnelly could not be reached for comment Monday about the appeal and the city’s plans to rewrite its law. Schopf said the humane society is assisting in the case on Luna’s behalf. He said evidence is being collected for the appeal.

Salka said the city doesn’t like to see any dog euthanized and is dealing with the continuing court case.

Luna’s bites were described in court documents as minor injuries. Schopf pointed out that a minor physical injury and a first offense, which was Luna’s case, would not lead to her being euthanized under state law.

Luna bit an American Eskimo dog, named Light, leaving him with bruises and cuts to his pelvis and abdomen area. Light’s owner was bitten while trying to break up the fight, according to court documents. Light’s owner, Alexi Carpenter, previously told the Times Union that Luna’s owner paid Light’s veterinary bill and that Luna is “not a bad dog.”

The Mohawk Hudson Humane Society does not plan to charge the city or the owner for Luna’s board while the case is pending, according to Schopf.

Fundraising is underway that will be used to cover the costs, he said.

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