Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Good news from the New York Supreme Court!

So, can you guess what the New York Supreme Court said on April 4, 2013? Can you? (well, if you follow me on Twitter you can, obviously!)

The case was The People of New York State v. Diana Shanks. The situation? A German Shepherd named Ranger was leashed to a porch railing. He broke his restraint and attacked an American Pit Bull Terrier, named Ghost, who was being walked past on the sidewalk by his pregnant owner. Ghost was both collared and harnessed, and was at no point unrestrained during the conflict. Both dogs inflicted injuries on one another, and Ghost's owner, though not injured by either dog, miscarried.

Even though Ranger perpetrated the attack, his owner filed charges against Ghost, seeking to have him declared a dangerous dog. Even though Ranger perpetrated the attack (and many people feel that German Shepherds are "dangerous dogs", by the by), Ranger's owner thought that Ghost was the dangerous one because he is an American Pit Bull Terrier.

Here is the criteria and subsequent action to be taken as pertains to dangerous dogs in New York state, per article 123 of the Agriculture and Markets law:

"(a) evaluation of the dog by a certified applied behaviorist, a board
certified veterinary behaviorist, or another recognized expert in the
field and completion of training or other treatment as deemed
appropriate by such expert. The owner of the dog shall be responsible
for all costs associated with evaluations and training ordered under
this section;
(b) secure, humane confinement of the dog for a period of time and in
a manner deemed appropriate by the court but in all instances in a
manner designed to: (1) prevent escape of the dog, (2) protect the
public from unauthorized contact with the dog, and (3) to protect the
dog from the elements pursuant to section three hundred fifty-three-b of
this chapter. Such confinement shall not include lengthy periods of
tying or chaining;
(c) restraint of the dog on a leash by an adult of at least twenty-one
years of age whenever the dog is on public premises;
(d) muzzling the dog whenever it is on public premises in a manner
that will prevent it from biting any person or animal, but that shall
not injure the dog or interfere with its vision or respiration; or
(e) maintenance of a liability insurance policy in an amount
determined by the court, but in no event in excess of one hundred
thousand dollars for personal injury or death resulting from an attack
by such dangerous dog."

As one might suspect, Ghost's owner did not feel her dog was "dangerous", only protecting her. And she took it from local town court all the way to the state supreme court, and won.

The New York Supreme Court found that there was "insufficient evidence to sustain a finding that Ghost was a dangerous dog" based on the cited law above. As the above linked blog states, the supreme court then cited the case of Roupp v. Conrad (interesting in the context of the People of New York State v Shanks case, the attacking dog in Roupp v. Conrad was a German Shepherd), from which I will quote:
 "there is no persuasive authority for the proposition that a court should take judicial notice of the ferocity of any particular type or breed of domestic animal"

This refers to an even earlier case (is law always like Inception? Is every case built upon legal precedent? I had no idea. Courtception), DeVaul v. Carvigo, inc. in which the plaintiff was bitten by a known to be vicious dog (another German Shepherd, oddly) but again, breed was disregarded as a factor in the court rulings. This is, I feel, how dog bite cases should be handled. On a case by case basis, judging individual propensities of a dog as an individual and his or her owner's responsibility. Oh yes, and what the complainant was also doing at the time; if you're breaking into somebody's house, and are bitten by their "vicious dog"? You get no sympathy from me.

Also of note here: it is against the law in New York State to have breed specific laws. Dangerous dogs must be appropriately managed, but are not determined as dangerous based on breed, per article 7 of section 107 of the NY Agriculture and Markets law:

"5. Nothing contained in this article shall prevent a municipality from adopting its own program for the control of dangerous dogs; provided, however, that no such program shall be less stringent than this article, and no such program shall regulate such dogs in a manner that is specific as to breed. Notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision one of this section, this subdivision and section one hundred twenty-one of this article shall apply to all municipalities including cities of two million or more."



  1. Woof! We've been following this case, too.

    1. It's local, so in addition to the breed thing, I wanted to know how things played out.clicking around on the legal rabbit hole of that web site, the law (in New York State anyway) does really uphold that breed has nothing to do with it. Granted, I haven't read every single case, but enough to be happy about that.

  2. You are right that these cases should be settled on a case by case basis. Dogs fight. It's what they do. They protect their owners, no matter what breed they are.

    1. Really, I wonder if Ghost's owner is going to take a lawsuit back to the town...but we'll see, I guess.

  3. WTG NY Supreme Court and SHAME on Ranger's owners for bad behavior

    1. Ranger's owner should really learn to handle him better, it seems!