An eight-year-old pit bull from Albemarle County is headed back to court after five years behind bars. A judge had ordered that Niko be put down, but his owner is again appealing that decision.
When Niko killed the neighbor’s cat, one of his owners was taken to court – ordered to surrender the dog for euthanasia. As the case was appealed, the dog remained at the SPCA.
“It’s real sad for me,” says lawyer Elliott Harding. “It just kind of mind-numbing to think that he hasn’t been let out yet.”
He argues the dog was just doing what dogs do:
“Dogs chasing cats goes all the way back to Tom and Jerry. You know cats chase mice. Dogs chase cats.”
He says Niko poses no risk to people.
“The dog has been in the custody of the SPCA for over five years now. He goes outside with handlers several times a week. He’s been having weekly visits with his owners for several years now, and he’s never had an incident with a human. We feel like there are better, more humane, appropriate outcomes than execution in this situation.”
And under state law, the attorney claims judges don’t have the right to order execution of dogs.
"The court doesn’t get to just choose euthanization," Harding argues. The court can only direct Niko over to the local body – that being animal control, and then animal control can make that decision.
If the court agrees, and the case goes to animal control, Harding will ask that agency to send the dog to rehab.
“We hope that we can get him transferred to an out-of-state organization that works with a lot of dogs with rehabilitation and socialization.”
Next month he’ll file written arguments with Virginia’s court of appeals.