The dangerous dogs that the McKearn family has been hiding for more than a week will be surrendered Thursday at 9 a.m., Sean McKearn promised in court.
McKearn went against his sister, and his father, who shouted out to him during court, urging him to not give up the dogs.
The deal kept him out of jail and won him an adjournment to next week so that his attorney could help argue that the dogs are not dangerous.
To McKearn’s evident surprise, he did not face City Judge Guido Loyola at the hearing, which was supposed to determine whether dogs Tyson and Vic should be further sanctioned for being dangerous dogs. Instead, he faced visiting Niskayuna Judge Stephen Swinton — who ruled the dogs dangerous two years ago after they bit a Niskayuna dog.
Swinton cut right to the chase at the start of the hearing.
“Where are the dogs?” he asked McKearn.
The dogs are accused of leaping out of a window at the McKearns’ house on Dean Street, running across the road and attacking a smaller dog, which later died from his injuries.
The dogs were seized by the city, but Deputy Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico later agreed to a deal with the McKearns’ attorney, Glen Brownell. He agreed that the dogs could be housed at Milton Manor, a boarding kennel.
The McKearns had complained about the conditions at the city’s new shelter. But once the dogs were moved, McKearn’s sister and father took the dogs out of the kennel and brought them to friends.
Since then, the family has refused to say where the dogs are, in an effort to “keep them alive,” as Sean McKearn put it in court.
He told the judge that he didn’t know the dogs’ whereabouts. He also asked for an adjournment, because his attorney is on vacation this week.
Swinton said he would only give McKearn an adjournment if he surrendered the dogs. And if he refused, he might face jail.
“I might hold you in contempt and jail you,” Swinton said, adding that his family might come with him.
“We might have more than one person going to jail.”
But he also said he wasn’t impressed by Falotico’s agreement to move the dogs to Milton Manor in the first place.
“Some of the fault may have to go to your office,” he said to Falotico.
Then he focused on finding the dogs.
“Well, Mr. McKearn, I’m torn. I believe games are being played,” he said. “I don’t want to deprive you of your right to an attorney, but I don’t want games rewarded.”
Falotico suggested a compromise: give McKearn a few minutes to get his family to cough up the dogs’ whereabouts.
Swinton seemed interested. He said he’d be willing to adjourn the hearing for a week if the dogs were safely in custody.
“Do you know who knows?” he asked McKearn.
McKearn said his sister knew.
“Do you have a cellphone?”
“Call your sister,” Swinton said. “If I think there’s obstruction, I will find you in contempt and jail you.”
With that, he began a 10-minute recess, and McKearn walked out of the court to negotiate with Lindsay McKearn over the phone.
The conversation was brief. It did not go well. Then, while McKearn was still outside the court, his father entered the fray. He told his son to stand firm and not give up the dogs.
McKearn took his seat in court reluctantly at the end of the recess.
“Well?” Swinton asked.
“She wants to know . . .” McKearn began, but Swinton cut off any negotiations.
“We’re not going back,” he said. “If you don’t have the information, we’re having the hearing.”
McKearn argued that the dogs were no longer in Schenectady County, so they didn’t have to be surrendered.
“It doesn’t make a difference,” Swinton said, telling him the designation two years ago of “dangerous” would follow the dogs anywhere.
So McKearn confessed that his sister wouldn’t give him a location for the dogs.
“Obviously she’s fighting me on this,” he said.
But as the threat of jail time loomed, he promised to get the dogs back to his house by 7 a.m. today.
His father called out from the gallery that he should go forward with the hearing instead of surrendering the dogs. McKearn ignored him.
Swinton accepted the deal. He told McKearn that animal control officers would pick up the dogs at 9 a.m., and if the dogs weren’t there, he would send McKearn to jail.
“They will be there,” McKearn promised.
Falotico objected to the delay, saying the dogs should be turned over immediately, but Swinton said it was better than nothing.
“That’s why I’m doing this adjournment in exchange for this information,” Swinton said. “Right now, the public isn’t protected, because we don’t know where the dogs are. I’m going to try to fix that.”
He rescheduled the dangerous dog hearing for next Wednesday at 1:30 p.m., and said he would send McKearn to jail then if he doesn’t surrender the dogs today.
Outside court, McKearn’s father criticized him sharply for agreeing to surrender the dogs. But McKearn said he had no choice.
“I’m not going to f---ing jail,” he said. “I have a son and a job.”
He added that his father was at fault, too, for taking the dogs out of Milton Manor.
“You should’ve kept the dogs there from the beginning,” he said before walking away.
Later, he said he hoped the dogs could be evaluated “like they should have been in the beginning” after they are surrendered.
“They’re good dogs, they just don’t get along with animals,” he said, adding that he hopes the judge will let the dogs live, separated, in new homes.
“I’m sure myself and my family will never be allowed to own dogs again,” he said morosely. “Today, I felt trapped in