Wading River woman ordered to keep her dogs confined

VERA CHINESE FILE PHOTO | Joseph Catalano holds his 4-year-old chihuahua Spartacus last year in the backyard near where the dog’s brother Agadore was mauled to death.

A Wading River woman whose dog allegedly dragged her neighbor’s pet Chihuahua through a hole in their fence and killed it last July has been given a conditional discharge on a civil petition filed against her by Riverhead Town, officials said.

Joanne Peters was sentenced on the condition that her dogs were “properly confined and kept on her property,” said town attorney Robert Kozakiewicz.

“Basically, it’s a confinement order, for lack of a better word.” he said. “If they’re off the property they have to be leashed.”

She did not pay a fine, Mr. Kozakiewicz added.

Last July, Wading River resident Joseph Catalano said he was relaxing on the deck, when he saw his pet dog, Agador, investigate a banging sound near the fence between his and Ms. Peter’s property. Mr. Catalano said Ms. Peters’ dog pulled Agador through the fence and ripped out the dog’s throat.

“I saw Agador’s feet being dragged through the fence,” Mr. Catalano said in an interview last year. “It was like something out of a horror movie.”

Ms. Peters, who said she adopted the dogs in response to burglaries in her home, said the animals were on her property and that the Chihuahua must have wandered over through the “dilapidated” fence.

This was not the first incident involving Ms. Peters’ dogs, according to police records and neighbors.

Neighbors Diane and Dave DelVecchio filed a complaint with police in May 2010, when Ms. Peters’ mixed-breed dog killed a stray cat on their property, an animal Ms. Peters said she had cared for, according to police records.

Prior to that, the DelVecchios told police, the dog had also attacked their nine-pound Shih-Tzu, costing nearly $400 in veterinarian bills, paid for by Ms. Peters.

Another neighbor, Lisa Kroez, said the same dog had bitten her 22-year-old daughter in the spring of 2010, though she did not report that incident to authorities.

Ms. Peters faced a Dangerous Dogs petition, filed under New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets law by the town, which asked a judge to take action to ensure Ms. Peters’ dogs did not harm anything in the neighborhood.

Mr. Kozakiewicz said Ms. Peters took steps to “repair fences and made sure the dogs didn’t run” free in the neighborhood, which influenced the terms of the discharge.

According to deputy town attorney Bill Duffy, who handled the case, town police and code investigations got involved after the incident and investigated the claims of a dangerous dog.

“One of the dogs seemed fairly tamed,” he said. “The second dog, the pit bull mix, appeared somewhat aggressive when encountered inside its home.”

However, investigators determined the dog did not display signs of aggression off the property, he said.

If Ms. Peters violates the terms of the discharge within a year, she could be brought before the court again and charged with a new violation, Mr. Kozakiewicz said.

“It’s almost like a self-imposed probation,” he said.

In a recent interview, Mr. Catalano said he made repairs to the fence, and plans to file a lawsuit against Ms. Peters.

“I just want her to be responsible, because it went on for years,” he said. “This dog was tormenting the neighborhood.”

Mr. Catalano said if he wins the suit, he plans to donate any money he is awarded to local dog shelters.

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