Greenpoint resident Lauren Schneider was walking her beloved Pomeranian Arlo on Manhattan Avenue one night in June when a white German Shepherd mix grabbed Arlo in its jaws and killed him right there on the sidewalk. The white dog was being walked on a leash by an unidentified man who then proceeded to nonchalantly stroll away with his pet, offering no assistance or even so much as an apology. But the incident was captured on a security camera, and Schneider is single-handedly trying to hold the man accountable.
"My beloved Arlo died in my arms on our way to an emergency vet," Schneider writes in an online petition demanding a "Dangerous Dog Hearing" from the NYC Health Department. "I have had multiple people come forward since the attack who have seen the owners not having control of their aggressive dog. This showcases that the owners knew their dog was aggressive yet they didn't take the precautionary measures that were obviously needed, resulting in Arlo's death."
As the International Business Times points out, dog owners whose pets kill other animals face few consequences:
The police told her it was a civil issue and referred her to the ASPCA. The ASPCA said they didn't handle dog attacks and told her to call the police. NYC’s 311 hotline told her they couldn’t do anything and recommended that she call 911 in the event of a future attack. Animal control told Schneider they don't handle dog attacks, and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene told her they could not do anything since it was a dog-on-dog incident. The same message cropped up again and again: Since a person wasn’t harmed, there’s nothing to be done.
“They want to treat dogs like disposable pieces of property,” Schneider said in an interview at a Greenpoint café last week. “It’s not a bike; it’s something that’s lost its life.”
The NYC Health Department's code defines a dangerous dog as pne that “menaces, threatens, attacks or bites a person," while the state law on dangerous dogs applies to dogs that attack people, companion animals (such as guide dogs), farm animals or domestic animals.
To complicate things further, the NYC administrative code is also more far-reaching than the Health Department, and defines a dangerous dog as one which "bites, inflicts injury, assaults or otherwise attacks a human being or domestic animal without provocation on public or private property." But because the NYC Health Department is the agency that holds Dangerous Dog hearings, their definition of a dangerous dog is the one that matters for Schneider.
"When I contacted the NY Department of Health to inquire about a Dangerous Dog Hearing they stated since it was not a dog-on-human attack they would not allot me a hearing," Schneider writes in her petition. "This means the dog can continue to attack and kill other dogs without the owner being held accountable for training the dog or muzzling the dog when in public places. Other dogs' lives are at stake, and who's to say it won't be a small child next?"
After Greenpointers and other outlets publicized video of the attack, witnesses contacted Schneider to inform her that the white dog's owner lives nearby. She subsequently filed a civil lawsuit against the alleged dog owner for roughly $1,500 to cover Arlo’s vet bills and cremation expenses, legal fees, and the value of the Pomeranian.
And she's hoping her petition will shame the NYC Health Department into giving her a dangerous dog hearing, which could force the white dog's owner to muzzle his dog, among other things. But it's unclear if the department will do an about-face. In a statement sent to IBT, the NYC Health Department said “the Department prioritizes investigations to those involving serious injuries to people, although if circumstances show that a dog attacking other dogs creates or may create a danger to people, we may take steps to have the owner control that dog.”