Family dog case resolved

Photo by Sue Suchyta from digital video Michael Hurley (left), attorney for the city of Allen Park, and Celeste Dunn, animal law attorney, who represented the family pro bono.

Photo by Sue Suchyta from digital video
Michael Hurley (left), attorney for the city of Allen Park, and Celeste Dunn, animal law attorney, who represented the family pro bono.

By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers

ALLEN PARK – A formal hearing concerning a family dog was resolved Oct. 3 with “potentially dangerous dog” charges dismissed, with the owner pleading responsible for “animal at large” and “animal bite” charges.

The case, heard in the 24th District Courtroom of Judge John Courtright, was resolved with Allen Park City Attorney Michael Hurley asking for the stipulation that the balance of the veterinary bills, $460, be considered as part of the settlement in the case.

Hurley said a portion of one of the veterinary bills had been paid, but a balance remained.

Celeste Dunn, an animal law attorney based in Troy, who represented the dog owner pro bono, said the family had already voluntarily made a $300 payment on one of the vet bills, and had a $255 balance due for that bill.
Hurley said a vet bill of $205 was incurred for the second dog.
Dunn said the vet bill for the second dog had never been presented to them, but her client was willing to pay it as a gesture of goodwill. The original police report for the incident with the second dog, prior to amendment, indicated that the other dog was unharmed.
Dunn asked the judge to waive any fines associated with the tickets, since her client would be paying for the veterinary bills, even though there was no proof of a vet bill for the second situation.
Hurley said he had no objection to the fine being waived. He said the defendant had complied with registering the dog.

Dunn said the dog owners were nice, law-abiding people.

“They worked with animal control to do everything necessary, and I really ask the court for that consideration,” she said. “The fence has been installed, both the tag has been received and the sign is on the fence.”

Dunn asked that the balance of the veterinary bills be paid within 90 days to the court so that the client would not have to be in contact with the complainants.

“My clients are not rich,” Dunn said. “I am doing this pro bono.”
The owner said after the dog squeezed through an opening in the fence gate the first time, the family secured it better. In the second incident, the dog jumped over the 4-foot fence.

The family then pulled a permit to install a new fence, and faced a delay until they were able to get an agreement with their adjourning neighbor over the style of fence which would be installed, with the neighbor preferring vinyl fencing over wood. A new, 6-foot fence has since been installed, and has passed city inspection.

The owner said it was the first time the dog had gotten out of the yard in the nine years they have lived in the house.
Courtright suspended the fees and costs but impressed upon the dog’s owners that by Dec. 15 they must pay the $460 veterinary bill balance.

A family member said that they were relieved that it was over, and they had tried to resolve it sooner. The family member said the dog, 11-year-old Lightning, a rescue dog who is a brindle, pitbull-boxer mix, is much loved by the family, especially their three children.
None of the neighbors who were party to the original complaints or who were at the show cause hearing Sept. 5 were present in the courtroom.
(Sue Suchyta can be reached at sue.suchyta@yahoo.com.)

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