Foss: Dogs shouldn’t be returned to owner in Schenectady case where girl injured


Categories: News, Opinion

I took a drive down Clayton Road the other day, to see what type of environment the two pit bulls who mauled a 3-year-old girl would be returning to if permitted to reunite with their owner. 

The street, located in Schenectady’s Woodlawn neighborhood, struck me as quiet, even peaceful. 

Lined with modest and well-maintained homes, it’s well-suited for families who desire calm streets and yards where children can play. 

If I lived there with my family, I would have been horrified by the vicious attack that unfolded at the end of May, when the pit bulls, Styles and Damon, lunged at the girl, dragged her 30 feet, bit her numerous times and left her with wounds so severe she spent a week in the hospital and will reportedly need physical therapy to recover. 

I’d also be horrified at the possibility that the dogs — formally declared dangerous under a deal reached Thursday in City Court — might resume living at the house where the bloody attack occurred. 

Still to be determined is whether the dogs will be euthanized, an option Judge Robert Hoffman said in pre-trial discussions that he “wasn’t inclined” to take. 

Why he isn’t inclined to take it is a mystery to me. 

There’s simply no justification for allowing animals we know to be dangerous to live in a well-populated residential neighborhood, in close proximity to children, adults and other pets. 

I could see getting on board with a plan to re-home Styles and Damon — to find a new owner for them in a more rural community where neighbors are few and far between. 

Unfortunately, re-homing the dogs to the country isn’t an idea that’s on the table. 

Should Hoffman rule out euthanasia, the dogs would be returned to the custody the girl’s uncle, Salvatore DiNovo. 

DiNovo intervened in the attack, striking the dog responsible for mauling the girl with a shovel and getting the animal to relinquish its grip.

But that happened after major damage had already been done.

The girl’s injuries are severe, gruesome and significant. 

They include numerous puncture wounds, some bone-deep, broken bones in the child’s right leg and scratches and cuts to the face. The girl also had to have a portion of her ear reattached because it was torn off. 

Sending animals capable of inflicting this type of damage to live in a neighborhood full of homes and people is as unnecessary as it is potentially dangerous. 

If Hoffman allows the dogs to live, he will likely order that they be outfitted with microchips and spayed or neutered. 

He should also consider requiring the canines to be assessed by an animal behavior specialist and to attend obedience school. Barring children from the house where the dogs reside also seems like a good idea. 

The girl had been staying at the home where the attack occurred for about six month. Since being discharged from the hospital, she’s been living with her father at an undisclosed location. 

How much longer that arrangement will last is anyone’s guess. 

The girl’s father, Robert Pierce, faces numerous felony charges unrelated to the dog attack and has been accused of submerging the girl’s mother in a bathtub while threatening to kill her. He also is alleged to have damaged surveillance equipment at the Colonie Jail. 

Why a child recovering from a horrific animal attack has been permitted to live with the man accused of punching and attempting to strangle her mother is beyond my comprehension. 

But, then, there’s a lot about this story that’s beyond my comprehension. 

It would be nice to think that the girl’s welfare was a consideration when determining the fate of the dogs who attacked her. 

But I’m not convinced that it is. 

Nor am I convinced that Styles and Damon should be trusted not to attack again. 

Reach Sara Foss at [email protected]. Opinions expressed here are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. 


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