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Oyster Bay Town wants animal rescuer to post $31G bond to save pit bull from euthanasia

Ruby, a pit bull at the Oyster Bay

Ruby, a pit bull at the Oyster Bay Town animal shelter, is at the center of a legal dispute between an animal activist who wants to save her and town and shelter officials who want to euthanize her. Credit: Court filing in New York State Supreme Court

Oyster Bay wants the would-be adopter of a pit bull slated for euthanasia to post a bond of almost $31,000 to cover the cost of caring for the dog at the town animal shelter while the legal case proceeds.

Meredith Festa, a Rocky Point dog lover, sued Oyster Bay in June to try to stop the town from killing the 3-year-old animal. Town officials allege that Ruby is dangerous and cannot be safely adopted.

“Our mission is to give these animals a second chance,” said Festa, who is president of Paws Unite People, a Rocky Point organization that tries to rehabilitate animals rescued from shelters.

Festa said she wants to give Ruby “time to detox” after two years in the town shelter, train her and “evaluate her so that she can be managed and integrated appropriately into a permanent home.”

Chief Deputy Town Attorney Frank Scalera said Wednesday in a statement that the lawsuit is “frivolous.”

“Ruby is a dangerous pit bull that demonstrated aggressive behavior,” Scalera said in the statement. “The town has an obligation to protect residents from dangerous dogs.”

The appellate court has not yet ruled on Oyster Bay’s request for Festa to post a bond.

Town attorneys said in court filings that Ruby has a “history of animal aggression” that includes attacking the person who found her on the streets, crushing the skull of a feral cat, biting another dog through a fence and showing aggression toward child-size dolls.

To gain standing to save Ruby, Festa attempted to use a provision of state law that allows a trust to be established for the benefit of a pet. Oyster Bay’s attorneys argued this law was intended to protect pets in the event that the owner died and would not apply in the case of Festa and Ruby. State Supreme Court Judge Leonard Steinman, ruling in Mineola, agreed with the town, ruling on Aug. 3 that Festa had no standing to sue the town.

“Festa has no particular right or interest regarding the welfare of Ruby distinct from any other citizen who may desire to adopt Ruby or see it live a long, productive and happy life,” Steinman wrote in his decision.

Another provision in state law that allows an animal to be transferred to a rescue organization merely allows it but does not mandate it, Steinman wrote.

Festa appealed and Ruby remains at the Oyster Bay animal shelter for now. Last year the town temporarily halted euthanizing animals at its shelter while it revised its policies in response to complaints from animal activists. They decried the town’s new policy adopted on June 2 that allowed for dogs to be killed after the shelter’s behaviorist deemed them unadoptable. Festa and her lawyers allege that the behaviorist improperly determined Ruby was not adoptable.

Festa’s attorney, Richard Rosenthal of Huntington Station, said the town’s request for a $30,867.24 bond while the appeal proceeds is unreasonable and is intended “to make it so unbelievably costly” for Festa to pursue the appeal.

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