Wayward dog owner could be criminally liable

By MIAWLING LAM

The recalcitrant Riverdale resident whose dogs have terrorized locals for more than two years could be slapped with criminal and civil charges.

State Senator Jeffrey Klein said Philomena McNamara could be subject to legal proceedings under a newly discovered state law.

In a recent letter to the state attorney general’s office, Klein said McNamara’s half-dozen German shepherds and Siberian huskies have repeatedly chased, bitten and attacked residents along Riverdale Avenue, raising safety concerns.

“The neighbor has had a history of allowing her canines into the outdoors unsecured, which has led to at least three instances of [people] being attacked,” he wrote.

“Eventually, neighbors have had to take matters in their own hands to secure her back yard so that the dogs will not break free onto the public streets.

“After some review, my staff has discovered Agriculture & Markets Law, Section 121, which stipulates that the state could have some authority here to find the owner of these unsecured pets to be criminally and civilly liable.”

Under the aforementioned law, dog owners can be convicted of a misdemeanor if they negligently permit their pet to bite a person and if the injury is serious.

The owner can also be held liable for any medical and veterinary costs resulting from the bite and be ordered to pay a fine. The fine varies according to whether the injury was caused to a person or animal, the seriousness of that injury and whether the dog was previously deemed to be a dangerous dog.

The latest development comes less than a month after a city administrative judge ordered McNamara to correct her dogs’ behavior.

However, according to Andrew Sandler of Councilman G. Oliver Koppell’s office, the wayward owner has failed to adhere to the ruling.

“She had to take them in for an evaluation, muzzle, put up a fence and do a lot of things. She hasn’t complied with…all of those things,” he said last week.

Contrary to previous reports, he said, the judge didn’t order McNamara to surrender the pack, but that threat could now be a possibility.

“Now, I think the city is in a position to take them away, but the actual ruling of the judge didn’t say they had to be taken away automatically,” Sandler said.

At a city hearing last year, scores of Riverdale residents testified that McNamara’s dogs attacked them, their neighbors and their own dogs.

At one point, police were even forced to shoot a dog with a tranquilizer after the pack broke loose and began “rampaging” through the nearby streets and yards.

The first known complaint about McNamara’s dogs surfaced on December 30, 2009, after Pagan Ezequiel said a white German shepherd attacked him outside the house.

The New York City Department of Health last year ordered McNamara to submit her large dogs for evaluation, enroll them in training and leash and muzzle them in public.

The pet owner was also instructed to obtain licenses for each of her canines, provide proof of immunization and secure the animals by April 2011, but she complied only partially—she took only two of the dogs to one obedience class.

As of press time, McNamara could not be reached for comment.

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