Attorneys representing the owners of Tank and Dolce, the two pit bulls who were ordered to be put down after they attacked an East Quogue woman in May 2006, lost their legal battle to save the dogs late last month.
Both dogs were euthanized on December 17 at the Southampton Town Animal Shelter in Hampton Bays, where they spent the past two years in solitary confinement.
“It was determined that they had exhausted their appeals,” Assistant Town Attorney Joe Burke said of the lawyers representing the dogs’ owners, John Gilhooley and Gina Ciuzio.
Mr. Burke, who serves as the liaison between the town attorney’s office and the animal shelter, noted that the town was not required to inform Mr. Gilhooley or Ms. Ciuzio prior to euthanizing their dogs.
The pit bulls were ordered to be put down by town attorneys last month after a second request to file a second appeal of the original ruling was denied in the New York State Court of Appeals in November. The original ruling was handed down in August 2006 by Southampton Town Justice Barbara Wilson, who ordered that Tank and Dolce be euthanized.
In June, the attorneys representing the dogs’ owners filed a request to seek permission to file a second appeal with the New York State Appellate Court. That request was denied in August. The first appeal, which was filed shortly after the original decision was handed down in 2006, was denied last April.
Steven Morelli, the attorney who represented Mr. Gilhooley and Ms. Ciuzio throughout the appellate process, said this week that he did everything in his power to save Dolce and Tank prior to their deaths last month.
“We took it upon ourselves to try to save the dogs’ lives,” Mr. Morelli said on Tuesday. “It is an unfortunate situation.”
He added that, in his opinion, the fate of both dogs had been sealed after permission to file a second appeal was denied for a second time in November. “There was nothing else we could have done,” he said.
Mr. Morelli noted that neither he nor the dogs’ owners were notified about the decision to euthanize the animals until after their deaths.
Ms. Ciuzio and Mr. Gilhooley could not be reached for comment.
During the original trial, victim Anne Cooke testified that on Memorial Day 2006, Tank and Dolce attacked her while she walking near her East Quogue home. She said she received between 30 and 40 stitches to close a cut on her neck that left behind a noticeable scar. Additionally, she testified in court that she had recurring nightmares of the attack.
Ms. Cooke, who has denied requests to be interviewed in the past, could not be reached for comment.
The dogs were apprehended by the town following the attacks and held at the animal shelter throughout the ensuing trial. The owners later appealed the decision to euthanize the dogs on grounds that Tank and Dolce were not dangerous animals.
At the core of Mr. Gilhooley’s and Ms. Ciuzio’s argument was the opinion that the dogs should not be euthanized because the attack did not result in serious injury or death. According to New York State agriculture and markets law, the euthanasia of an animal can be ordered only if it has caused serious injury or death. Serious injury is defined as any injury that causes death, disfigurement, or loss or impairment of the function of any bodily organ.
Southampton resident Pat Lynch, who has acted as an advocate on Tank and Dolce’s behalf, said the decision to finalize the order was made too soon. “It was unseemly and hasty,” she said.
Ms. Lynch, who is a vocal critic of the animal shelter, added that, in her opinion, town attorneys purposely did not notify Mr. Morelli or herself prior to euthanizing the dogs because they wanted to end the appeals process.
She also noted that an anonymous donor had previously agreed to pay for Tank and Dolce to live at Silver Streak Kennel, an animal sanctuary in upstate New York, if attorneys successfully appealed their case.