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When The Dog Bites: Westchester's Strategy For Dealing With Dangerous Dogs

After two gruesome dog attacks made headlines in Westchester recently, the seemingly pleasant pooch next door might look like public enemy No. 1.
After two gruesome dog attacks made headlines in Westchester recently, the seemingly pleasant pooch next door might look like public enemy No. 1. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The following is the first of a two-part report.

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- After two gruesome dog attacks made headlines in Westchester recently, the seemingly pleasant pooch next door might actually be public enemy No. 1.

In April, a 6-year-old Lhasa Apso named Lulu was taken to a Yonkers animal hospital where she died after another dog attacked her near Secor Place.

Just months before, last November, a 5-year-old Yonkers boy faced multiple surgeries after his grandmother's dog attacked him and bit off his genitals.

What does Westchester County do to intervene in cases of aggressive dogs, and what turns friendly Fido into a frenzied attack dog?

Most, if not all cases, are dealt with within the municipality the dog resides in, according to Westchester County Department of Health Assistant Commissioner for Public Health Protection Peter DeLucia.

If they are not euthanized by court order, they are registered in the county's dangerous dog registry, which was created after New York State Law required that all dangerous dogs be reported to the municipality where the dog resides.

Only dogs that have been deemed “dangerous” by a judge as defined in section 209-cc of the General Municipal Law, following a hearing, are included in this registry.

As of this article's publication, only four dogs are registered. All of these dogs fall under the diverse group known as, "pit bulls."

Additionally, the aforementioned incidents, both in Yonkers, involved pit bulls - which have become the subject of public scrutiny in recent years for what some people believe to be an inherently vicious disposition.

Dot Baisly, behavior and enrichment coordinator at the SPCA of Westchester, said dogs become aggressive because they have irresponsible owners and are not socialized properly, regardless of breed or background.

"As for the situation in Yonkers, the dog was left in a house for months without any contact with the outside world," she said. "It was undersocialized, and its owners were aware it was reactive. Dog aggression depends on so many factors. Saying any breed is one way or another is gross generalization."

Shannon Laukhuf, executive director of the SPCA of Westchester, said all dogs brought to them are are behaviorally evaluated before being put up for adoption.

"We're very serious about dog bites," she said. "We won't put a dog out into the community if it is vicious. A committee meets to assess each situation and works with previous owner. We try to work out rehab plan, and we have a unconditional return policy."

Laukhuf said if they feel a dog is extremely dangerous, they will humanely euthanize it.

"That's usually the one time we do that here unless they're terminally ill. It's a very rare situation," she said.

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ssamin@dailyvoice.com