Dog attack case pits owner against Humane Society

Owner questions her rights, authority of animal control officers

Dog attack case pits owner against Humane Society

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - A woman is challenging the impounding of her two dogs for allegedly killing a neighbor's cat, and having to pay the cost of impounding them.

Caitlin McAdam's two dogs, Jake and Lucy, were accused of attacking and killing the cat on the night of Jan. 30 in the 1100 block of Mount Werner Terrace, near the Southgate area.  McAdam lives nearby in the 1200 block of Montrose Avenue.

Juliet Piccone, an Aurora animal rights attorney representing McAdam, said McAdam wasn't home at the time of the alleged incident but her husband was.

"He and some friends were working on some cars in the garage and the dogs were hanging out with them," Piccone said.  "I'm still not clear why (the cat owner) thinks those dogs did it.  They have no history of being vicious."

Piccone said the dogs were first impounded at the Humane Society, then taken to a private kennel sought by McAdam and approved by the Society.

McAdam sent an email to KRDO NewsChannel 13, upset that she's being charged $1,200 in advance to pay for impounding her two dogs for a month while her case is investigated.

"I have since learned that if I can't pay, I have to relinquish the dogs and they will be determined unadoptable due to the charges against them (and) they will be euthanized," she wrote.

Piccone said the situation has happened to several people, and in one case a dog was put down even though it was later found to have not been involved in an attack.

"It just doesn't seem to really jibe with what a Humane Society's main purpose should really be," she said.  "I don't think it's a really good fit for a Humane Society to be in the business of providing this particular law enforcement service."

Piccone said the Society is following state law which includes a maximum six-month sentence for a pet owner convicted of unlawful ownership of a dangerous dog.

"But it would be more proper if they followed municipal (city) law," she said.  "I'd like to see the contract the city has with the Society and ask the City Council if it's aware of what it allows the Society to do."

Joe Stafford, director of animal law enforcement for the Society, said laws changed three years ago to provide more due process to accused pet owners.

"Now there has to be a hearing within 10 days (of a dog being impounded) to determine whether there's enough evidence for a charge and to give the accused an opportunity to contest the charge," he said.  "Is it a perfect system?  No.  Could it be better?  Yes.  But it balances the rights of the accuser and the accused."

Stafford said a judge ultimately decides whether a charge or action against an owner's pet are warranted.

"The law does say if one domestic animal kills another, that animal will be destroyed," Stafford said.  "The court has judicial authority to either follow through with what the law says, or to take the circumstances into effect and make a different decision."

McAdam's hearing is scheduled for Feb. 19.

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