By Sabina Mollot
In July, Town & Village reported on a Stuyvesant Town pooch who was badly injured after getting mauled by another dog in the complex. Though the 13-year-old Portuguese water dog named Lorca has since recovered from the dog bite, his owner Siddharth Dube has sued the owners of the other dog.
According to the suit, he’s hoping to recover $7,500 in vet bills as well as $2,600 income he lost out on while caring for Lorca and other related expenses.
It was on June 27 when Dube said Lorca was bitten by the other dog, on his upper left leg, the wound later requiring surgery. He had been walking Lorca near the Oval when a woman passed by him with her own dog and a baby in a carriage. Dube was talking on his phone until he turned around after hearing Lorca howl in pain. Both owners tried to reel in their dogs on their leashes, but weren’t successful in getting the other dog’s jaws off Lorca until Dube kicked him off, he previously told T&V.
The suit also notes that he had to forcibly remove the dog, which he described as a brown puggle. Dube quickly took his own pet home, where Lorca appeared to be shaken but otherwise okay. However, Dube later found him looking lifeless in the living room and called the vet who advised Dube to bring in Lorca immediately for surgery.
Dube said that because of the vet’s concerns about the older dog, who’d already had spinal problems, not making it, Dube stayed with Lorca all day each day until he was released on July 3. To do so, he took off from his work as a senior consultant to the World Health Organization. According to the suit, this cost him his daily fee of $650 for a total of $2,600.
Dube has since told Town & Village that along with getting the money back, he wants to see the other dog muzzled. He’s also hoping Stuyvesant Town management will create a publicly available database of dogs known to be violent.
“If the dog wants to attack my dog or me, it needs to be muzzled,” Dube said, adding that throughout the summer he’d avoided walking Lorca near the Oval because of the other dog. Still, since the June incident, the other dog lunged at Lorca two more times, he said, the most recent incident being a couple of weekends ago. Dube added that since Stuy Town management won’t be forcing the other dog to be muzzled, he won’t be renewing his lease.
The owners of the other dog have been identified in the complaint, filed before Labor Day, as Brandon and Julie Stein.
Dube’s lawsuit noted that he was told, when asking Stuyvesant Town management about the identity of the other dog’s owner, that the Steins threatened to sue management if their names were to be released. Dube said he ultimately learned who they were from neighbors.
A call requesting comment to the Steins’ law firm and calls to two attorneys representing the Steins weren’t returned.
A spokesperson for StuyTown Property Services, Paula Chirhart, had previously said, when asked about Dube’s dog database idea, that management was open to all suggestions for improving the property. However, she declined to comment on Dube’s situation or lawsuit.
Asked if management has any policy in place to protect dogs and what policy there was, if any, if something happens, Chirhart referred to a pet rider that residents have to sign in their leases.
“All pet owners are required to register their dogs which includes updated medical information and City registration,” Chirhart said. “In accordance with both the Pet Rider and the House Rules, dog owners are responsible for the behavior of their dogs and StuyTown Property Services is responsible for the enforcement of the Pet Rider and House Rules. In such enforcement, StuyTown Property Services also follows City laws and standard practices.”
Stuy Town General Manager Rick Hayduk also addressed the incident, when Dube brought it up at a Tenants Association meeting on Saturday, saying he thought city laws should be changed to protect dogs and that Stuy Town should change its bylaws.
Hayduk, in response, told Dube management was doing everything that could be done legally “to protect dogs at large.”
Later, Council Member Dan Garodnick, who was also at the meeting, said the issue of dog violence “deserves a hard look.”
Meanwhile, since his dog was bitten, Dube said he’s encountered a few other pet owners who told him similar tales. A couple of them also spoke with T&V about their experiences.
One of them was Liza Grier, who said her dog, a male husky named Kai, had been bitten by a 120-pound great dane in an unprovoked attack. According to Grier, the great dane’s owners had fraudulently claimed the pooch was a service dog in order to be allowed to get an apartment in Stuyvesant Town, where dogs are not permitted if they’re over 50 pounds. However, she added, “the dog was never with them. The dog was never trained. It was solely for the purpose of obtaining housing.”
The dog was also aggressive, at times, lunging at Kai, who was nine at the time of the attack. The bite incident happened last October one day when Grier was waiting with her dog in her building’s lobby for an elevator. When the door opened, the great dane bolted out and went straight for the 50-pound Kai, biting him on the right side.
The dog’s owners were a couple and the great dane was with the husband at the time, who Grier recalled was “a big guy.” But even he struggled to pull back his pet on her leash after she’d latched on to Kai, millimeters from his lung, Grier recalled.
Kai ultimately needed two surgeries and additional care, spending nearly two months in an animal hospital. The cost was $6,500.
Grier, intent on keeping Kai away from the great dane after this, relocated to New Jersey during that time, staying in a friend’s summer home. The animal hospital was also in Jersey.
“I was not going to stay (in Stuy Town) while the predator was staying there,” she said. Meanwhile, she added, the dog’s owners were still in denial that their dog was aggressive. Calls to management and the legal department to complain went nowhere for six weeks until Grier got an attorney and threatened to sue. Her attorney then got a subpoena for the footage from the security camera in the lobby which wound up giving Grier all the proof she needed. Eventually, Grier, the dog’s owners and management came to an agreement, through counsel, to have the great dane and its owners voluntarily leave Stuyvesant Town. This was in December and the couple had to be out by mid-February. Additionally, in the meantime, the great dane had to be muzzled while on the property.
“That was the most important thing to me,” said Grier. She also got reimbursed $800 for Kai’s initial surgery, but as part of the agreement, had to give up pursuing the rest of the money for her dog’s medical care. “Did I want to? No. But I wanted them out so that’s what I agreed to,” Grier said.
Asked her thoughts about Dube’s idea for a dog bite database, Grier said she thought it was a good one as long as there was a way to make sure it wouldn’t get abused by neighbors irate over things like a pooch’s barking.
She also said she thought the city’s Health Department should get more responsive to reports of dog bites.
“A human has to get bitten before anyone takes notice,” Grier said. “Nobody cares about dog-on-dog attacks until you threaten to sue them. Then they start caring and that’s really unfortunate.”
As for Kai, other than a long scar around his body, Grier said he’s doing okay and still gets along with other dogs close to home. “He’s an old guy, mellow. He doesn’t hold grudges,” she said.
In another incident, which occurred a few years ago, one dog owner T&V spoke with recently said a dog tore off his boston terrier’s lower eyelid when the two pooches were playing near the Oval. Fortunately, his dog’s eye is now fine and the vet bill was paid by the other owner.
The hurt dog’s owner, Eduardo Rodriguez, said the other dog didn’t appear to be any specific breed. But he recalled that after his dog, Thomas, was bitten, the owners of the other dog, who like Rodriguez, lived in Stuy Town, were very helpful. Along with offering and then following through to pay for Thomas’s treatment, “the next time I saw the dog it was muzzled,” Rodriguez said. The attack hadn’t appeared to be an act of aggression between the two dogs who were roughly the same size at 30 pounds each. “They were playing and all of a sudden it happened,” Rodriguez said.
He added that dog owners in Stuyvesant Town/Peter Cooper Village tend to be a tight-knit group, and as such, will hear about incidents of canine-on-canine violence when it happens, as well as owners who don’t handle their dogs responsibly. “There’s a few,” said Rodriguez.
In another incident, as T&V reported in August, a pint-sized therapy pooch named Rudy was violently shaken by another dog on the property and came close to losing his eye. The four and a half pound Maltese dog is now fine following emergency surgery and several followup visits. His owner, Christy Brown, said at the time she didn’t know what prompted the attack though she knows Rudy barks at other dogs. She was able to pay for the dog’s extensive medical bills through her pet insurance.