June 07, 2006

Town Accused Of Stealing Dog

Mary Trent thought she was doing the right thing when she gave up her seven-month old pit bull to the Riverhead Animal Shelter last month.

"She had intended for the dog to be adopted," said Murry Schneps, Trent's attorney. However, soon after the dog was taken in, it was put on death row.

When Trent learned that the puppy was to be put down, she quickly attempted to adopt the dog back.

She was denied the opportunity, said Schneps, who has since filed suit on behalf of Trent in the Riverhead Justice Court.

The case was set to be heard after press deadline on Monday.

"She wants the dog back," said Schneps.

Schneps admitted that the dog does have a history of violence.

He explained that as a three month old, the puppy clipped her owner, sending her to the hospital for care.

Trent, said Schneps, was honest and told shelter officials about the incident.

As per the shelter's controversial new no-kill regulations, when a known aggressive animal is taken in, a series of tests must be conducted to ensure that the animal is adoptable.

For example, shelter officials must consult with a specified veterinarian and if there is conflicting evaluation between shelter staff and the vet, an animal behaviorist must be called in.

Prior to the adoption of the policy, animal shelter staff had sole discretion over the canine's fate.

It took many months before the new policy was adopted. Not only was shelter staff concerned about becoming a virtual no-kill shelter, but Riverhead Supervisor Phil Cardinale expressed hesitance over possible liability.

The supervisor said that if an animal, which was known to be aggressive and was adopted and subsequently bit someone, the town would be 100 percent liable.

Despite the supervisor's concerns, the law was passed late last year.

"We are taking this to the wall," said Calverton resident Rex Farr, whose wife was instrumental in the adoption of the new euthanasia policy. "That dog was inches from being unjustly euthanized."

Town Attorney Dawn Thomas said she could not comment until after the court date.

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