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Pit bull fine is $1,000
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
By SEAN C. McCULLEN
BRIDGETON -- The owner of a pit bull that mauled a 12-year-old boy in mid-October was ordered Monday to pay a total of $1,100 in fines and to complete 30 days of community service.
Municipal Judge Laura Scruggs fined Harrison Street resident Ivy Kennedy $1,000 for owning a vicious dog -- the maximum fine for the offense at the time of the attack -- and $100 for failing to license the dog.
She also ordered Kennedy to 30 days of community service with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).
On Nov. 9, Kennedy was offered a plea deal that would have resulted in her paying just a $250 fine, plus associated court fees, for the vicious dog charge.
The second charge -- failing to license the dog -- was to be dropped under the agreement.
But Scruggs was not willing to sign off on the plea deal at that time since the victim, Frank Baker IV, and his family had not been notified of the hearing and, thus, could not offer their opinion of it.
Baker and his uncle, Etroy Baker, were in court Monday. Both told Scruggs they were content with the fines and community service penalty levied against Kennedy.
The Clarke Road boy, who recently turned 13, required 250-plus stitches to the left side of his face following the vicious Oct. 16 attack, which occurred behind Kennedy's home while several boys, including her son, were playing football.
Kennedy had the year-old blue-nosed pit bull euthanized at Ron's Animal Shelter in Pittsgrove Township nine days after the attack.
City Prosecutor Cris D'Arrigo took the fact that Kennedy had the dog euthanized into account when recommending the $100 fine for her having failed to license the dog -- she actually licensed the dog the day after the attack. She had faced a fine of up to $1,000 for the offense.
D'Arrigo also recommended the maximum $1,000 fine and that community service be included in Kennedy's sentence for owning a vicious dog. He suggested Kennedy's community service be done with the county SPCA.
The prosecutor noted that the Bakers informed him before the sentencing hearing that they felt the fines and penalties he was going to recommend for Kennedy were too harsh.
Kennedy objected to the community service element of her sentence after indicating she felt the fines were fair.
"I have not downplayed the severity of the attack," Kennedy said to Scruggs, noting she's been attempting to cooperate with and help the Baker family since the attack. "I just don't feel I need to do community service. ... I didn't do anything intentional."
Kennedy had claimed in November that the dog was secured on a chain in her backyard, but that the clasp to its collar failed.
She reiterated that defense on Monday -- it was the first time Scruggs had heard it.
D'Arrigo on Monday described the restraint as "insufficient," given the fact the dog got loose and attacked Baker.
Scruggs hopes the community service element of Kennedy's sentence will be more than just punitive.
"It is the court's hope ... that you learn about the needs of a pit bull," the judge said. "If you're going to get a dog, you need to know what the dog is capable of and is bred for."
Kennedy has one year to pay off the fines and complete the community service.
Following her initial Nov. 9 appearance before Scruggs, Kennedy was scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 21, but contacted the court early that day to ask that it be rescheduled.
A Millville resident and county corrections officer is working to establish a fund for the Baker family to help pay for plastic surgery to remove the 13-year-old boy's scar.