A Staten Island couple claims their pit bull Cesar is being treated unjustly by a city investigation that could end in the 7-year-old dog being put down. Kristina and Douglas Panattieri, along with their attorney Richard Bruce Rosenthal, insist that administrative courts and the Department of Health are denying Cesar "certain minimal due-process rights," the Post reports.
In May, the 70 pound Cesar reportedly escaped from the Panattieri's New Dorp backyard and seized upon a chihuahua that was being walked by its 77-year-old owner Eugene Charles. The tabloid reports that Cesar "ripped apart" the small dog, who was named Charlie, and when the elderly man attempted to free it from the pit bull's jaws he suffered 18 puncture wounds.
"[Cesar] was thrashing Charlie back and forth like he was a rag doll," Charles told the Daily News. "He just ripped Charlie apart."
Speaking with the Post, Rosenthal argued that Cesar bit Charles's hands because he was "provoked," and that the courts that advise the DoH on which dangerous dogs should be put down operates under a "guilty unless proven innocent" mentality.
City records show that a year before Cesar killed the small chihuahua he had broken into a yard and killed a Maltese, and in 2010 the city claims he attacked a woman and killed her cat. The Panattieris blame Cesar's victims for their own deaths: they told the News that the cat made the mistake of wandering into their home from another apartment, and allege the maltese killed in 2015 was unleashed and ran at Cesar. However, they admit that the pit bull's ability to escape their backyard led to the death of Charlie the chihuahua.
According to the Panattieris' suit, the pit bull is being held at the New York City Animal Care and Control Shelter. City lawyers have filed a petition against Cesar, claiming that his repeated killings confirm that he's a dangerous dog that must be euthanized.
Dr. Peter Borchelt, an animal behaviorist who has observed Cesar, recommended to the News that he be put down. Borchelt describes Cesar as "very reactive" around other dogs in the shelter. In June, DoH lawyer Christina King wrote that Borchelt "believes that his predatory behavior will be extremely difficulty to modify and any effort to do so would involve too high a risk of legal liability."
A Manhattan Supreme Court hearing will determine Cesar's fate on August 15th. Rosenthal told the News that the dog's owners have offered to keep him muzzled and harnessed when he leaves their home and put him through "Canine Good Citizen" training. The dog is, according to their attorney, "like a child to them."