Dog on death row 14 months gets lucky break

A dog named Lucky lived up to his A dog named Lucky lived up to his name this year. Nearly 14 months after a Suffolk County district court judge had ordered the pit bull mix be put down for killing a neighbor's cat, Lucky was taken off death row and released on May 23 from the Brookhaven Town shelter. Lucky's life was spared after the cat owner's lawsuit was settled by both sides agreeing the dog should leave the state forever. Guardians of Rescue in Smithtown was given 60 days to get Lucky to an out-of-state sanctuary. | Here's the story Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

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Lucky's lived up to his name -- released after 14 months in doggy "jail" and on death row for killing a neighbor's cat.

The pit bull mix was freed Thursday from the Brookhaven Town shelter after the cat owner's lawsuit was settled when both sides agreed Lucky should leave the state forever.

"It wasn't guaranteed I would win, and Lucky would have been there another year if this had dragged on," said Joey Mantle, who got his pet as a puppy four years ago. "True love is not really about being selfish. It's about knowing that the companion that you had is going to have a happy lifestyle."

The case was unusual because a Suffolk district court judge in March 2012 ordered Lucky put down, even though he had not previously been deemed a "dangerous dog," as required under state law.

Lucky had gotten out of Mantle's Bellport home several times and attacked Biggie three times in less than two years, causing the cat to lose a leg one time, neighbors Raymond Jasinski and his daughter Dawn Jasinski-Kuezek said in their suit.

In November 2011, Lucky got into Jasinski's back yard and thrashed Biggie around, killing the 10-year-old cat, the suit said. Biggie's owners did not return a call for comment.

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Mantle, who now lives in Ronkonkoma, appealed the judicial ruling.

He wanted to fight death this month, the same month his mother died in 2007 and his father in 2009, the year he got Lucky to ease his loneliness. "I was tired of accepting death and not being able to do anything about death," Mantle said.

He got Lucky for free -- hence the name -- and the dog became a "constant companion," Mantle said, making sad eyes when his owner left for work, wagging his tail for walks and gnawing on his favorite treat: big bones.

At the shelter, an outside evaluator found Lucky "confident" and "stable," court papers show.

Dori Scofield, then the shelter's supervisor, said due to his court case, Lucky wasn't allowed to play with dogs or be led out by just anyone.

Many dogs have spinning jags from "cabin fever" in shelters, she said, but not Lucky: "He remained calm, cool and collected."

When Scofield quit the shelter last October, she couldn't forget the death row dog.

The Guardians of Rescue in Smithtown intervened in court and agreed to a deal giving the group 60 days to get Lucky to an out-of-state sanctuary.

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The day Lucky was released, he gobbled up two cheeseburgers, then snored in the truck on the way to his temporary home, Save-A-Pet shelter in Port Jefferson Station.

Mantle said Lucky shouldn't have been punished for being a dog: "Dogs chase after cats. It's all instinct. To have a dog euthanized because it chased a cat doesn't make any sense."

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