On October 11, 2001 an Oneida County, New York woman was campaigning for public office on Ontario Street when a dog ran out and bit her. She was in front of 1140 Ontario Street in the city of Utica. The only person at 1140 Ontario Street at the time of the dog bite was a man who had previously lived at the residence with his fiancé. His fiancé was not at home at the time of the attack. The Utica man was not supposed to have been at the 1140 Ontario Street address since he had moved out when the couple broke up. The Utica man had taken the couples dog when he moved out. The Utica woman had filed a police report which stated that the Utica man had taken the dog illegally. They did and the Utica man stated that he would return the dog to his ex-fiancé. He never did.
It is unclear as to what the Utica man was doing with the dog at his ex-fiancé’s house without her permission. At any rate, the dog was not on a leash. The city of Utica, New York maintains a leash law. When the dog attacked the woman in front of 1140 Ontario Street, it was not leashed and it was not under the owner’s control.
In New York, there is a law that is called the Agriculture and Markets law. Pursuant to section 113 of this law every animal is registered with them including dogs. If a dog is then sold the registration must be corrected to reflect the new owner’s name. If the dog is sold to a third party the dog’s registration with the state must be updated to that new owner. Each time the dog’s title is transferred from seller to buyer, the new owner will have ten days to transfer the state registration of the dog into their name. If this is not completed within this time frame the new owner or owners can be charged with violating this law and be issued a citation. In this case, the dog’s title was in the name of the female who resided at 1140 Ontario Street. So even though she claimed to have no knowledge of her ex-fiancé coming to her home on October 11,2001 and bringing the dog with him. She is still considered responsible because the attackoccurred on her property by a dog that was still in her name with the state registry.
The woman, who was injured, filed a police report on the attack. She also hired a New York Personal Injury Lawyer. Since the attack occurred in front of 1140 Ontario Street which is in the Utica woman’s name, and since the dogs records with the state agriculture board showed the Utica woman as the dog’s owner, she was charged with violating the leash law, not having the dog under control, and maintaining a vicious animal. The dog was guilty of biting two other people before biting his most recent victim. The fact of this dog’s prior history of vicious behavior is a matter of record and has gone undisputed in this case. The Utica woman, who owns the house, claims that after her ex-fiancé failed to return the dog to her, that she had transferred the dog’s ownership to him. He also admits that the dog is his. The law says that the dog is hers as well as his.
The question in this case is: Who is the rightful owner of the dog? Who is responsible for the actions of the dog that day in October? The Utica court system says that since the house belonged to the Utica woman and on paper the dog belongs to the woman. The court maintains that the law is simple in New York. When a dog is purchased or transferred to another person, the people involved have ten days in which to notify the Agriculture and Markets department to fill out the necessary transfer documents. Since this was not done, if the dog’s ownership had been transferred, then that person would have been held responsible. This is especially true since that person was the only human there besides the victim of the bite.
According to the state, the dog who caused the injury had previously resided at the residence on 1140 Ontario Street, in the city of Utica, as the family pet, owned jointly by the male and female who resided there. The dog’s state registration documents show the female who resides at 1140 Ontario Street as the dog’s legal owner. Even though she was not present at the attack and had been given no advance notice that her ex-fiancé was going to be there with the dog, she is held accountable for the dog’s actions. The Utica male is also held equally responsible.
After being charged and sentenced in the criminal sense, the Utica female obtained a New York dog bite Lawyer and filed a motion for a summary judgment to dismiss the complaint against her because she was not the owner of the dog at the time of the attack.
The court system identified several concerns regarding the ownership of the dog in question. On August 2, 2001 the Utica woman admitted to owning the dog. This admission was just 69 days prior to the bite, when she called the police about her ex-fiancé stealing her dog. The Utica man then promised the police that he would return the dog. This is documented in the police report. Both members of the couple who resided together previously at 1140 Ontario Street state that somehow the dog was transferred to the male member of the couple after the couple broke up and he moved out and prior to the dog biting the victim. However, there is no paperwork reflecting a change in ownership of the dog. There were no facts to reflect the change in ownership of the dog. They could not provide a specific date of transfer, including but not limited to the terms of the transfer.
Taking these facts in to consideration, the court agreed that there were enough factual questions to resolve in this case that it needed to go before a jury. Because of this, the motion for a summary judgment has been denied at this time.
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