Doggedly pursuing animal complaints

By Ron Leir
Observer Correspondent


Summer has barely begun but already Kearny has seen plenty of the season’s “dog” days … and lots more.

Just ask William Pettigrew, public health inspector for the Kearny Health Department, who’s been scampering around, responding to a series of incidents involving dog bites and barkings, a cat scratch, even a stray chicken, plus lots of overgrown grass and weeds in yards.

On June 4, the Health Department was notified by Clara Maass Medical Center, Belleville, that the hospital had treated someone bit by a pit bull-type dog on Chestnut St. the day prior.

After learning the dog owner’s identity, Pettigrew said he phoned the owner and advised that he’d be stopping by to talk and to arrange for a home confinement for the owner’s unlicensed pet for 10 days as a precaution.

Upon arriving at his destination and asking to see the dog, Pettigrew said he was told by the owner that “they just gave the dog away to a resident of Newark who happened to be passing by.”

While at the Chestnut St. site, Pettigrew said he found two pit bull-type dogs, neither of which was licensed, so he issued the owner summonses for three unlicensed dogs and for failure to confine an unlicensed and potentially dangerous dog. At that point, Pettigrew initiated the legal machinery to get a search warrant to get inside the Chestnut St. residence. It marked the first time in his more than 34 years with the Health Department that he’d had to resort to such a tactic.

On Friday, June 6, Pettigrew executed the warrant at the owner’s residence, where he said he discovered … another unlicensed pit bulltype canine – but not the one he was seeking.

The following Monday, June 9, the owner called Pettigrew to say that the dog being sought had been returned. Pettigrew said the owner apologized for not cooperating more readily, saying they’d been “misinformed that the town was going to take the dog away.”

After finding that the dog appeared to be in good health, the dog was placed under 10-day confinement. “On June 16, I released the dog from quarantine and advised the owner to re-vaccinate it,” Pettigrew said.

“The investigation is still open,” he added. The case is due to be heard in Municipal Court July 20.

Within a nine-day period, the Health Department had to deal with two cases of dog attacks.

In response to a June 1 incident on Elm St., in which a pit bull caused a head injury and broken jaw to a Maltese, both owners were given summonses for unlicensed dogs, Pettigrew said. Additionally, Hudson County Animal Control Officer Bob Harris charged the pit bull owner with harboring a potentially dangerous dog. However, after learning that the same pit bull had been involved in a prior attack on a human Dec. 6, 2012, “we met with the owner who voluntarily had the dog euthanized June 13 at the Bergen County Animal Shelter,” Pettigrew said.

Another repeat offender popped up in a June 9 incident when a man and a woman were walking their dogs on Ivy St. and a pit bull ran out from a residential yard and tried to attack one of the dogs and, in the process, the man was bitten on the arm, Pettigrew said. Research showed that this was the third time this animal had initiated an attack: first, when it bit another dog in May 2013; the second, when it went after a human about a year later; and now, this latest episode, he said. The owner, who was issued a summons for harboring a potentially dangerous dog, agreed to permanently relinquish the dog to the Bergen County Animal Shelter. Both of the dog walkers also received summonses for unlicensed dogs.

On June 5, the Health Department responded to a report of a child scratched by a stray kitten on Maple St. The child’s parent was advised to have the child vaccinated against rabies as a precaution, Pettigrew said. The kitten couldn’t be found, he said.

And last Tuesday, Mark Byrnes of the county animal control office was dispatched to a Dukes St. location to snare a stray chicken which a homeowner had reported wandering in her yard for the past few days.

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