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Westwood owner must go to court to save pit bull who bit neighbor

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot
Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: The owner of a mix pit bull chow who bit a Westwood neighbor this morning threw furniture from her window and barricaded herself inside her condo last summer before the Bergen County Police Department SWAT team battered down the door and the K9 unit carefully removed the dog.

Pit bull owner lives on upper floor at Roxbury Commons, Westwood

EXCLUSIVE: Carolyn Rice told CLIFFVIEW PILOT tonight that her pet pitchow will likely be put down after severely biting her Westwood neighbor’s leg during an argument between the two women this morning. READ MORE….

The Roxbury Condominium Association later demanded the pit bull mix not be allowed back in, a requirement it said the woman had ignored despire repeated notices.

Unable to keep the animal inside, she took to various other methods — including leaving the dog in her car with the air conditioning on,

Westwood Police Chief Frank Regino told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

“She’s apparently been having her neighbor across the street take care of the dog lately,” the chief said this morning.

A short time early, the Fairview Avenue neighbor was “severely bitten” in her backyard while chatting with the owner, Regino said. She was taken to Hackensack University Medical Center, said the chief, adding that he hadn’t received any updates on her condition as of 4:30 this afternoon.

The owner now must go through the relatively rare procedure of a Municipal Court hearing to prevent the animal from being destroyed, Bergen County officials told CLIFFVIEW PILOT this afternoon.

“Official notification will be made in writing and sent to the Westwood Municipal Court, the Health Department and by registered mail to the owner,” Joseph Appio, a spokesman for County Executive Kathleen Donovan said.

“The owner then has options” under New Jersey’s Vicious and Potentially Dangerous Dog Act, he told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

“She can request a hearing. She could relinquish ownership and leave it to the courts to decide, in which case the dog will most likely be destroyed,” Appio said. “If she refuses to accept receipt of the letter, [county Animal Control Supervisor] Robert Harris would inform the judge, and the dog would be destroyed.”

Either way, the owner has seven days from today to respond through certified mail, under the law’s provisions.

New Jersey authorizes animal control officers to impound any dog who harms a human or other animal in an unprovoked act, under the provisions of the act. Bodily injury is defined as “physical pain, illness or any impairment of physical condition.”

The owner must then argue in court against charges that the dog is either vicious or potentially dangerous. Animal control officers bear the burden of proving the attack wasn’t provoked.

Even if it’s a first offense, dogs who are judged vicious are put down.

Meanwhile, those found potentially dangerous must be specially licensed, muzzled, walked on special leashes and kept in specifically designed (and costly) enclosures. A judge might also require an owner to obtain special insurance, which is also pricey — and difficult to get.

The Westwood owner went to her neighbor’s house around 9 a.m. today to feed the dog, who was chained in the backyard, Regino told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

“The two women were talking, and the victim at one point was between the owner and the dog,” the chief said this morning. “He got spooked somehow and attacked the woman.”

Police and paramedics rendered first aid before she was taken to Hackensack University Center with what the chief characterized as a severe bite.

Harris was summoned and impounded the dog at the agency’s Teterboro shelter. The legal process now begins.

Whether the owner receives favorable treatment from the courts is an open question.

Westwood police frequently have responded to her Roxbury condo on “EDP” (emotionally disturbed person) calls that ended with her being hospitalized at Bergen Regional Medical Center, records show. None have involved criminal actions.

Last Aug. 4, however, things got a bit wild, as first reported exclusively on CLIFFVIEW PILOT : SWAT team breaks in, removes emotionally troubled woman

It began with her throwing furniture at construction workers from her third-floor condo at 530 Fairview Avenue.

While reporters and bystanders were kept at a safe remove, negotiators spoke with the woman, who barricaded herself inside with the dog. Center and Fairview avenues were also closed off to vehicular traffic.

“We’ve been here before, many times — never for anything criminal,” an officer told CLIFFVIEW PILOT . “This time we brought the SWAT team, because of the circumstances.”

For a few hours, SWAT teams members negotiated with her through her door.

“Unfortunately, she won’t listen to anybody. She’s a big woman,” a law enforcement officer at the scene told CLIFFVIEW PILOT .

To make matters worse, “she has a real nasty dog in there,” he said at the time.

For that reason, members of the BCPD K9 unit were summoned, as well.

It wasn’t long after they arrived that the SWAT team broke down the door.


EDITORIAL : Before you draw your final conclusions on the “Molly and Ava” saga — which ended with a cancer-stricken River Vale girl’s dog being moved out of town after biting a neighbor’s 6-year-old daughter —  consider what the media hasn’t told you. READ MORE….

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