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Editorial: Dangerous dogs getting off too lightly

Editorial: Dangerous dogs getting off too lightly

Law protects animals at expense of people

Schenectady has had more than its share of dangerous dog incidents in recent years, and while it has made some progress in addressing them, there’s still room for improvement.

The latest case involved a pit bull attack last June 26. It only came to light when it was adjudicated last week, but almost makes the highly publicized attack that took place around the same time on Dean Street pale in comparison. That involved two pit bulls jumping out a window to attack a dog being walked down the street.

In the latest case, the victim was a 13-year-old boy who’d been innocently playing basketball with friends in his driveway.

He suffered 20 puncture wounds, which needed 30 staples and five stitches to close. Seven months later, his mother says he is still healing.

Is it any wonder that she was annoyed by the relatively mild punishment Judge Kenneth Litz meted out to the owner of the dog, which aside from being dangerous was unlicensed?

It was not euthanized, as it should have been, and its owner only had to cover the $380 in out-of-pocket expenses that the family incurred after their insurance kicked in.

Before being given her dog back, Amy Conger was additionally required to obtain $50,000 in liability insurance and to move it out of the city. Reportedly, it now resides in Glenville, where it has been registered as a dangerous dog.

City officials defend the deal they gave Conger because they say euthanizing a dog after just one offense isn’t easy — state Agriculture and Markets law allows for confinement after a hearing, but euthanizing requires a trial, which generally takes months. Meanwhile, the dog can be back on the streets.

Well, how about working on the state to tighten its laws?

A police officer can shoot a dog for killing a deer, so why does one that’s mauled a human get a pass, just because it’s the animal’s “first offense?”

And what’s the city’s explanation for letting someone with an unlicensed dog off so easily? Merely sending the dog to live in a nearby community hardly seems like an adequate solution — more like passing the buck.

Finally, there’s the issue of restitution: It may be common for a court to limit it to a victim’s out-of-pocket costs. But in this case, it hardly seems fair that the health insurance company that covered the boy’s injuries (which undoubtedly ran in the thousands of dollars) should be stuck with the bill.

When that happens, we all know who really pays: consumers, in the form of higher premiums.Yes, the health insurer can sue to get its money back, but in a case like this, it’s probably not worth the trouble.

So the various loopholes that leave the public vulnerable to attack by dangerous dogs have yet to be closed — in Schenectady and elsewhere around the state.

How many people will have to be killed or maimed before it gets done?

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