The McKearn family is losing one of its dogs forever, and the other’s fate still lies in the balance.
Visiting City Judge Stephen Swinton accepted a deal Wednesday in which the family agreed both of their dogs were dangerous. They also agreed that the more aggressive dog, Victor, should be euthanized. They’re still hoping to save Tyson’s life.
But they said it would be harder to defend Vic, as they call him. He is aggressive toward other animals and will try to get out of the house to attack dogs that pass by on walks, they said.
That’s what happened on June 30, when Vic and the family’s other dog, Tyson, jumped out a window and attacked a smaller dog being walked outside. The smaller dog, Templeton, died.
While family members said they took responsibility for the incident, they were not happy with the agreement.
“It’s not fair,” said Lindsay McKearn, who does not own the dogs but lives with them. They sleep with her at night.
“I think the judge has his mind made up. I think he came here with his mind made up,” she added.
She cried through much of the court hearing. She had arranged for a family willing to foster Vic, she said, and had hoped the judge might approve that as an alternative to death.
The family attorney, Rebecca Mudie, did try to argue that the dogs could live elsewhere. But she was speaking to the judge in conference, away from the microphones.
At one point, the judge’s answer could be heard across the courtroom: “No, there is no way I am letting those dogs out of the city’s hands. Ever.”
Later, when she persisted, he added, “No. This has been enough with the show. No.”
Swinton was angry because Lindsay McKearn had hidden the dogs with friends for a week and refused to give their whereabouts to the judge or the police, despite a court order.
She had been able to hide them because the city agreed to a deal in which the dogs could be held a private boarding kennel at the McKearns’ expense. She signed them out of the kennel days later, without informing the city.
When Swinton threatened to jail her brother Sean, the legal owner, she agreed to give up the dogs. They are now being held at the city shelter, in what she alleges to be inhumane conditions. They don’t get walked and have no access to the outdoors, nor do they get any interaction with each other or humans.
She had also hoped the judge would let a foster family care for Tyson. That family was in court Wednesday, but declined to give their names.
Swinton insisted that Tyson remain in the city shelter after what happened last time.
Tyson is still facing euthanasia, but his fate will be determined when the judge rules on the misdemeanor charges facing Sean McKearn.
He faces two counts of harboring a dangerous dog, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine or 90 days in jail. The judge will also have the authority to order Tyson euthanized or otherwise dealt with, Deputy Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico said.
McKearn’s next court date will be Aug. 27 at 10:30 a.m. in City Court. Falotico is hoping to offer a plea deal, but said the case will otherwise move toward a trial.
The McKearns believe there might be mitigating factors that defend Tyson. They think he was just following Vic’s lead when Vic attacked Templeton.
But Templeton’s owner said both dogs were biting her dog.
As early as today, Vic will be euthanized, Falotico said. The exact date has not been determined.
Lindsay McKearn was bitterly disappointed.
“I think this is an easy way out for the city,” she said, adding that it was essentially calling for “an eye for an eye.”
If Tyson is allowed to live, Swinton said he would insist that the dog be muzzled and microchipped. His owners would have to get a $100,000 insurance rider on their homeowner’s insurance to cover damages from future attacks as well, he said.