First and foremost, I am appalled by the state of New York and its lack of protection and its ignorance toward the value of companion animals, mainly our pets. To many of us, our pets are members of our families and should be afforded protection as such. That being said, I must comment on the recent article published in your paper, titled "Dog shooting stirs up trouble."
In the article, a section of the Agriculture and Markets Law was quoted by Mr. Kostoss, which he said made his actions legal. I would like to clarify that section of law. The section of law Mr. Kostoss quoted was from the Agriculture and Markets Law Article 7, Section 123-a, titled, "Exemption from civil liability." This section clearly states that, if justified, a person could not be held civilly liable for the destruction of said dog. It in no way exempts a person from criminal liability for his/her actions and leaves the burden of proof on the person to prove he/she was justified in destroying a dog in order that he/she not be held civilly liable for such action.
Mr. Kostoss, through his own admittance, stated that he had scared off the dogs at one point. At this point, the dogs were no threat to him. The law Mr. Kostoss quoted clearly states, "shall behave in a manner in which a reasonable person would believe poses a serious and unjustified imminent threat of serious physical injury or death to a companion animal, farm animal or domestic animal." At the point that Mr. Kostoss states he shot the dogs, there was no threat to him, as he had already scared the dogs off once, and, through Mr. Kostoss' own admission, "the dogs came back and were doing the same thing, pulling at the guts hanging in the cage and eating it." At this point, the dogs were not attacking but were eating remains. Without a serious and unjustified imminent threat, Mr. Kostoss destroyed those dogs, contrary to the section of law quoted.
Since we are quoting law, I would like to quote from the Agriculture and Markets Law Article 7, Section 123, titled "Dangerous dogs." This section clearly outlines the steps that should have been taken to protect the farm animals and family of Mr. Kostoss if he had indeed felt threatened by the actions of these dogs:
"1. Any person who witnesses an attack or threatened attack, or in the case of a minor, an adult acting on behalf of such minor, may make a complaint of an attack or threatened attack upon a person, companion animal as defined in section three hundred fifty of this chapter, farm animal as defined in such section three hundred fifty, or a domestic animal as defined in subdivision seven of section one hundred eight of this article to a dog control officer or police officer of the appropriate municipality. Such officer shall immediately inform the complainant of his or her right to commence a proceeding as provided in subdivision two of this section and, if there is reason to believe the dog is a dangerous dog, the officer shall forthwith commence such proceeding himself or herself."
Clearly in this case, even if Mr. Kostoss felt justified in his actions, the incident should have been reported in accordance with the law. Mr. Kostoss, had he properly reported the incident, could have requested the dogs be held in quarantine until the investigation was complete. I can cite many cases where, once reported to police or the local animal control officer, dogs were held in quarantine until a judge rendered a decision as to whether or not the dog should be classified as a "dangerous dog."
I would also like to quote Article 26, Section 363 of the Agriculture and Market Law, "Unauthorized possession of dogs presumptive evidence of larceny":
"The unauthorized possession of a dog or dogs, by any person not the true owner, for a period exceeding ten days, without notifying either the owner, the local police authorities, or the superintendent of the state police at Albany, New York, of such possession, shall be presumptive evidence of larceny."
Section 155.05 of the New York State Penal Law defines larceny as follows:
"1. A person steals property and commits larceny when, with intent to deprive another of property or to appropriate the same to himself or to a third person, he wrongfully takes, obtains or withholds such property from an owner thereof."
In this case, it is quite clear that the crime of larceny was committed. Through Mr. Kostoss' own admissions, he did not notify the owners of the whereabouts of the dogs and he did not notify the proper authorities and further "withheld such property from an owner thereof." In accordance with the Ag and Market Law, his unauthorized possession of the dogs for a period in excess of 10 days is presumptive evidence of larceny and his intent to withhold such property from its owner was clear when he refused to tell the owners where their dogs were, even when specifically asked. Please forgive me for referring to our beloved pets as property, but this is how they are viewed by the state of New York.
Mr. Kostoss also was quoted as saying, "In retrospect, sure, it could have been handled differently, but the animals would still be dead either way." I wonder if he referring to the rabbits or the dogs? The dogs' deaths are senseless, and to that I say, "How could any person have such a callous, unfeeling attitude toward the death of another person's loved ones?"
To the Nichols family, my heartfelt sympathies go out to you in your time of grief. I hope that you get the peace you deserve and Tenney and Copper get the justice they deserve. Rest in peace, Tenney and Copper.
Kyle Hayes lives in Gabriels.