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April 6, 2013

Dog ruling overturned

Staff Report
The Daily Star

---- — An Oneonta town justice’s ruling that was upheld by the county court was overturned in a recent decision by the state Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Judicial Department.

In a ruling issued Thursday, the court said Oneonta Town Justice Philip Hosely last year erred in finding that Diana Shanks’ pit bull, Ghost, was dangerous after it got into a bloody fight with a German shepherd, Ranger, in 2011. Shanks was pregnant at the time, and had a miscarriage the night following the incident, the ruling said.

Shanks represented herself, and a phone number was not available to get a comment. Hosely did not return a call to court for comment.

It was undisputed at the initial trial that Ranger attacked Ghost first, and was injured when Ghost defended himself and Shanks, the ruling said. It faulted Hosely for stating “dogs are by nature stupid and aggressive” and describing Ghost as an aggressive, powerful and vicious pit bull, although German shepherds are characterized as an aggressive breed.

He was also criticized for saying Shanks showed “a lack of judgment” in walking her pit bull while pregnant.

Even if there were sufficient evidence to sustain the dangerous dog finding, based on Hosley’s opinion on dogs and of Shanks, “we would be compelled to reverse this decision based upon judicial bias,” the court said.

According to the ruling, the charge against Shanks was filed by Ana-Marie Blasetti, who in November 2011 lived at 367 Chestnut St.

Ranger, who was owned by Blasetti’s daughter, was on the house porch when he escaped his leash and ran after Ghost, who was being walked on a leash by his owner.

Under Section 123 of the state Agriculture and Markets Law, Shanks was found 65 percent culpable for the incident and responsible for that percentage of the combined veterinary bills. Hosely ordered Ghost to be muzzled and kept on a short leash. Shanks appealed that decision to Otsego County Court, and in February appealed it to the Supreme Court.