Editorial: City has some explaining to do in dog case
If it was a person who was suspected of killing a dog as it walked on the sidewalk with its owner, there's no way this would have happened.
So how is it that two dangerous dogs with a history of violence were released from custody after committing the same terrible crime?
Schenectady city officials owe the public a lot of answers after they somehow allowed the release of two large dogs, which witnesses said leaped out of a window, crossed the road, and brutally killed a 24-pound terrier mix as it was being walked by its owner on Dean Street in the city last month.
In a move apparently born of compassion for the love of an owner and his dogs, Deputy Corporation Counsel Carl Falotico made an agreement with the dogs' owner, Sean McKearn, that allowed the dogs to be held at a private shelter — instead of a city shelter — so McKearn could visit his pets, which are likely to be euthanized for their latest offense.
Somehow, the dogs were later released from the private shelter into the custody of people associated with McKearn, who then hid the dogs and refused to tell authorities where they were.
This incident raises several questions. First, why would the city agree to this deal? It's not automatic that a person is entitled to visit his condemned dogs. He couldn't have waited until the inevitable hearing? Second, how was McKearn or his accomplices able to engineer the release? Weren't officials at the private shelter, Milton Manor, alerted not to release the dogs to anyone? If they were aware of an alert, did they deliberately or accidentally violate the order? And since these dogs had attacked people and other animals before, why were they even returned to the owner after the previous attacks in the first place?
With these dogs out in the public, there's an opportunity for them to strike again. The next time, it might not be a terrier. It might be a toddler. It might be an elderly person. It might be you or me. It's true that not all dogs that attack other dogs also attack people, but should the city take that risk with the public’s safety?
State Assemblyman Jim Tedisco wasted no time politicizing the situation, pushing for dangerous dog alerts and tougher penalties for dog owners.
But what happened here had nothing to do with either. This situation was about a lax system that allowed dangerous animals to be released before a judge could determine their fate.
In light of this incident, the city needs to review and tighten its policies when it comes to seizing and detaining dangerous dogs. And if individuals violated an agreement by aiding in the dogs' escape, they should be charged with obstructing justice.
When it comes to protecting the public from dangerous animals, there’s no room for scofflaws or screw-ups.