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Appeals Court Reverses Town Court Judgment Which Opined Dogs Are “Stupid and Aggressive”
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On Thursday, the Appellate Division, Third Department, New York, reversed a decision of Oneonta Town Justice Philip Hosley, and held Hosley had erred when he found the pit bull owned by Diana Shanks was “dangerous.”

Shanks was taking a walk with her pit bull named Ghost when Ranger, a German shepherd, who was tethered to the front porch of his home, broke free and attacked. Ghost fought back to protect Shanks, who was pregnant. Shanks had a miscarriage following the incident.

Ghost sustained injuries to his face, neck and paws while the other dog suffered puncture wounds and throat injuries.

  
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Ranger’s owner, Ana-Marie Basetti filed a complaint with the town court alleging it was Ghost who had attacked her dog Ranger.

The Town Justice found Ghost a “dangerous” dog, holding that Shanks had shown “a lack of judgment” in taking the pit bull for a walk while she was pregnant, and also passed a grand opinion that “dogs are by nature stupid and aggressive.”

Declaring a dog “dangerous” under Section 123 of the state Agriculture & Markets Law creates a situation where a judge may order the dog to be euthanized, muzzled, confined, or made subject to other penalties.

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The town court ordered Ghost should be muzzled and kept on short leash and ordered Shanks to pay 65 percent of the combined veterinarian bills.

Shanks appealed, without a lawyer representing her.



An Otsego County judge affirmed the town court decision last year.

Shanks appealed again.

Ultimately on Thursday, the Appellate Division, Third Department reversed the town court’s decision. Heavily criticizing the town court judge for making observations like dogs by nature are “stupid and aggressive” and that Shanks was at fault for taking a walk while pregnant, accompanied by her pit bull. The appellate court found the judge to be biased.

Writing for the appellate court, Justice Edward Spain remarked, “Even were there sufficient evidence to sustain the dangerous dog finding, based on Town Court’s admitted general opinions about dogs and its specific opinion about (Shanks), we would be compelled to reverse this decision based on judicial bias.”

The Third Department also observed, “Attacked by another dog with his owner at close range, Ghost’s protective and defensive instincts were entirely understandable, even expected.”



 

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