'Blame the Deed Not the Breed': Pit Bull Banished From Mamaroneck, Regulation Discussed

Residents packed the Village of Mamaroneck courtroom to discuss ways in which the current code concerning dogs could be modified.


The pit bull that killed a small dog and severed a 75-year-old woman’s fingertip on Sept. 26, was formally banished from the Village of Mamaroneck (VOM) yesterday.

David Rigano, the owner of the pit bull, pled guilty in VOM court to a charge of dangerous dog attack on a domestic animal, a violation of Agriculture and Market Law, according to court papers. The dog—surrendered on Monday to NY Bully Crew, a Long Island-based rescue group that specializes in rehabilitating pit bulls—must remain at the shelter indefinitely or be humanely euthanized, as per the court’s ruling on dangerous dogs.

Rigano must bear the cost of installing a microchip in the dog as well as restitution charges for the victim to be determined within the next month.

According to VOM Mayor Norm Rosenblum, the owner originally agreed to euthanize the dog, but, due to a mandatory waiting period from the county Department of Health, did not immediately do so. 

The pit bull attacked a Coton De Tulear belonging to Josephine Catalfamo the morning of Sept. 26 as she was walking down Florence Street; Catalfamo’s fingertip was severed when she attempted to pull the dogs apart. 

But, since the issue was originally reported on Sept. 30, reactions from the Mamaroneck community have been swift and relentless, with many fiercely advocating on the breed’s behalf, which they say is a victim of both bad publicity and misinformation.  Others felt the owners of aggressive dogs were to blame.

Later in the day, the conversation continued at a VOM Board of Trustees meeting, where Rosenblum held a public forum to, “strengthen and enforce our local law for dogs for the health, safety and welfare of everybody in the village.”

“The general analysis is that it had never been socialized,” he said, referring to Rigano’s dog.  “It’s an unfortunate situation all the way around.”

Although VOM code Chapter 156 does not prohibit pit bulls, Village of Larchmont code Chapter 97, Article 4 specifically states: “No person shall sell, purchase, possess, rent, lease or harbor a pit bull terrier within the jurisdiction of the Village of Larchmont other than a pit bull terrier which has been acquired prior to the effective date of this article and registered pursuant to this article.”  Those who acquired their dogs before the law went into effect must follow strict regulations which include annual registration; possession of at least $500K of liability insurance as well as muzzling the dogs anytime they leave the owner's property and displaying a prominent sign at their home identifying that a pit bull resides there.

However, according to the NY State Agriculture and Market Law, breed-specific legislation is prohibited: “Nothing contained in this article shall prevent a municipality from adopting its own program for the control of dangerous dogs; provided, however, that no such program shall be less stringent than this article, and no such program shall regulate such dogs in a manner that is specific as to breed.”

The county keeps a registry of dogs that have been declared dangerous in a court of law; there are currently four dogs on the list (three pit bulls and one Staffordshire Terrier).

Trustee John Hofstetter echoed popular sentiment that dog attacks weren’t necessarily limited to one breed.

“I think that’s something we have to address procedurally in the village…I know there are other areas and other dogs where there have been issues,” he said.

“The law [Agriculture and Market Law] is written to protect all dogs so no one dog is made to be an object of punishment…I believe that’s what our justice used in coming to a conclusion,” said Trustee Toni Pergola Ryan.

Rosenblum reiterated, however, that the board’s ability to act on behalf of dog attack victims was limited.

“The village board, the police department or anyone other than a judge, has no authority or power to determine if a dog should be put down,” he said.

Still, many residents came to the podium to discuss their own positive experiences with pit bulls, to correct misconceptions about the breed or simply to weigh in on a controversial topic.

Dianne Heim, a board member at the New Rochelle Humane Society, brandishing a letter from a satisfied pit bull owner, said, “Some of the nicest, sweetest, most loving dogs we have at the shelter are pit bulls.”

Miller-Clark Animal Hospital Veterinarian Dr. Gina Antiaris spoke of her experience working with a wide variety of pets. “I get bit by little dogs and another vet I work with was hospitalized for a week from a cat bite,” she said.

Dr. Antiaris stressed the importance of spaying and neutering all dogs to cut down on aggressive behaviors as well as socializing dogs and teaching them basic training skills.

“If you guys want to set up a spay/neuter clinic, I will volunteer,” she said to applause from the audience.

Still others were not convinced that enough had been done to prevent a future incident from occurring.

Chris Sergio, the parent of a young child, said he frequently walks his son to school on Florence Street.

“It seems some people want the deeds to happen and then deal with it afterwards. I completely disagree with that,” he said, continuing, “I think we need to get ahead of it rather than wait for things like this to happen.” 

New York State Veterinarian Dr. Laura Stein, however, argued against the assumption that a dog’s size is somehow commensurate with its potential for ferocity.

“This is a small dog, large dog scenario-it’s physics, it had nothing to do with the breed,” she said.

“There’s nothing in the literature that makes a pit bull or these 10 AKC [American Kennel Club] breeds any more likely to be an aggressor than any other breed out there.”

Despite the assurances from medical professionals, however, some residents were still shaken up over the incident.

Gretehel Rodriguez, a daycare worker at Kathy’s Kids, said her daughter is scared to walk to school now from their Ward Avenue residence.

“If you have a dog that’s aggressive…if you live near a school or park that’s very populated by kids you should be able to have a rule that these people need to have special permits or special training,” she said, her voice choked with emotion.

Another resident accused the village of not doing enough to make sure existing laws were followed: “The laws that are currently on the books are not enforced.”

“The law is pretty clear that if it’s a reasonable threat it’s supposed to be documented and a certain number of documented issues would bring somebody into court,” said Hofstetter, adding that people are sometimes reluctant to report incidents involving neighbors or friends.

Although there was no specific change to the existing law discussed at the meeting, Rosenblum encouraged the community to send future comments to info@vomny.org.

BG7 October 10, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Talk about missing the point . There are no "assurances" here because they are completely missing the point. When the chihuauaha attacks you you get bitten. When a Rott or a Pit attacks you, you can end up dead. Does this specious argument about the propensity of breeds to attack in place of the factual consequences of the attack actually carry any water with anyone other than those with an agenda? BB guns and AK47s both fire but they have different consequences.
CotonBreeder October 10, 2012 at 03:02 PM
As the breeder of the little Coton de Tulear who was killed by the Pit Bull, I am in complete agreement with you BG7.
Mary Too October 10, 2012 at 03:07 PM
. I am happy to see that the Patch is monitoring the comments made to their various articles, and removing those that are vulgar and libelous. Keep up the good work. What is the next step if the user posting these comments continues to do so? .
Norman Rosenblum October 10, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Breed Specific Legislation is prohibited by New York State Agriculture and Markets Law: Please note: Paragraph 5 ..."Nothing contained in this article shall prevent a municipality from adopting its own program for the control of dangerous dogs; provided. however, that no such program shall be less stringent than this article, and no such program shall regulate dogs in a manner that is specific as to breed.".... It is the responsibility of the Village of Mamaroneck to amend its Dog & Animal local law to enhance the general health, safety and welfare of all to live, work and visit. All actions must be subject to the guidelines as set by New York State Law, Further there is the matter of enforcement of our local law as well as any required amendments that address dangerous dogs and methods to prevent, as much as possible, any event before it occurs rather than being simply reactive. Last night's meeting elucidated nunerous suggestions and information that should prove to be valuable to the BOT in its review of the VOM exisitng law as well as increasing the protection of all in the VOM. I would note that the reasonable and unemotional discussion produced the best example of the democratic process with expected results to improve this situation in the VOM. Respectfuly, Norman Norman S. Rosenblum Mayor Village of Mamaroneck 10/10/12
Odd Job October 10, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Why is this guy's dog attacking other dogs? My pit bulls are so gentle with little dogs when they run up on them unleashed. It is the big dogs that spook them when they are run up on. Can't this guy keep his dog under control? Mine wear a harness and collar and when they pull, I don't let go.
Mary Too October 10, 2012 at 09:27 PM
. For reasons unknown to me, the folks that crowded the court room appeared to be there to speak out against the village banning ownership of pit bulls. This was never the case, as was clearly explained by the mayor. The entire audience seemed quite pleased with what the mayor had to say, and a meaningful discussion ensued, with good input from the public. Well done mayor! ,
Conrad Heyer October 11, 2012 at 01:43 AM
I am the owner of the sweetest geriatric Pitty in the world. I received the emails about the meeting but was unable to attend. What I was told was that prior to a meeting last week the Mayor had floated the idea of banning Pittys but had been told at the meeting that legally he couldn't do that. I think people only heard the first part about banning and got concerned, I watched the meeting and was surprised to hear someone say that Larchmont had banned Pittys even though it was against the law so I don't think the concern was unwarranted. I will say that I was very proud of how intelligently all the dog owner expressed themselves. To me the Mayor was pandering to the audience just as he is above.. I bet that now that they have dodged this bullet nothing will get done.
Mary Too October 11, 2012 at 01:58 AM
. I came away from the meeting believing that the mayor has genuine concern for the safety of village residents, particularly children. He was open to suggestions, and in fact solicited them. People volunteered their professional services (veterinary and training) free of charge to the village. The mayor handled this very professionally and intelligently, which resulted in everyone being satisfied and the village benefitting in the process. .
Conrad Heyer October 11, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Mary, I did not mean to imply that the Mayor does not care about residents or children. Of course he does. The problem was that he reacted without doing his due diligence first and that is why pet owners were so concerned and showed up at the meeting. If he had talked to his attorney first a lot of the BOT's and the publics time would have been saved.
Harold1968 October 11, 2012 at 03:34 PM
What I want to know is if this Rigano AS******E owns any other dogs.
Harold1968 October 11, 2012 at 04:12 PM
Laura, I assume you're trying to say that pit bull owners shouldn't be held to a different standard than other dog owners?
Charles Mitchell October 11, 2012 at 05:30 PM
"Let's be scientific. Here's what we know: (1) Research to date suggests pit bulls are somewhere near the top of the list of biters, and their bites are bad — and possibly unpredictable. (2) No, Mr. or Ms. Pit Bull Fancier, nobody has proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that they’re particularly violent. (3) Some media claims about pit bulls are ridiculous, no question. Are they powerful beasts with strong jaws? Yes. Do they have "locking jaws"? Spare me. I'll use my calmest voice-of-reason tone: especially when children are involved, caution (and maybe some canine-behavior homework) is advised." http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/2863/are-pit-bulls-really-all-that-dangerous
Conrad Heyer October 11, 2012 at 06:21 PM
What a waste of time reading that article was, Just some curmudgeon spouting selected, meaningless statistics and opinions. My own fault I should have been tipped off when another piece on the blog was "Do you weigh more or less after you fart?" LOL
Conrad Heyer October 11, 2012 at 08:51 PM
"It is the responsibility of the Village of Mamaroneck to amend its Dog & Animal local law to enhance the general health, safety and welfare of all to live, Further there is the matter of enforcement of our local law " Does this mean that you have directed the Village Attorney to draft a new law to deal with the problem? Will the Village police be more attentive in the future in enforcing the laws that are on the books?
Conrad Heyer October 11, 2012 at 09:51 PM
This is off topic, but I just received this from a friend in Orienta, they are as upset about this as we are about our Pittys! Too long for 1 finished below. HAMPSHIRE COUNTRY CLUB IS POSITIONING TO HAVE THEIR ZONING CHANGED TO UNDERTAKE A REDEVELOPMENT – Hampshire Country Club has been having ‘private’ meetings in order to move forward purportedly to request a zoning change to undertake a development which is not presently permitted by the zoning. It is anticipated that the request to the Village could be to: a) Change the zoning, b) develop somewhere around 125 condo units in wings as part of the current main building (although other scenarios were for town houses), c) have in ground parking possibly for 200 to 250 cars, d) provide new locker rooms for the Club and possibly other amenities, and e) continue club operations There have been non-public meetings with the Mayor and other members of the “official“ Village family and as one person described it to “help streamline the process.” The current Village Zoning does not permit the development approach believed to be desired by HCC and the route to accomplish it would be to change the zoning which would simply be by a vote by the Board of Trustees. The changing of the zoning presents numerous issues of precedent that could likely affect the entire Village including every club, marina, boatyard as well as potentially schools, churches and other large land parcels
Conrad Heyer October 11, 2012 at 09:51 PM
Without discussing the merits of the desired development, any proposed rezoning change needs to be opened to the entire public, not just certain groups. The entire Village needs sufficient time for a thorough review and open discussion of the long-terms cumulative implications and impacts to all other large land parcels as well as the character of the Village.
Kevin Reilly October 12, 2012 at 03:05 AM
"In response to last week's pit bull attack, Mayor Norm Rosenblum has asked the village attorney to look at local law regarding pit bull dogs. " This must be the same logic that was used when the Federal Government rounded up tens of thousands of American Citizens and removed them from their homes with no due process. They were of Japanese decent and the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. It's a good thing we had forward thinking politicians back then, and have ones now, like Mayor Rosenblum. I grew up in Mamaroneck and it's nice to know there are still quality politicians that understand you can generalize the behavior of an isolated incident onto a broader public, in this case a specific breed of dog.
Kevin Reilly October 12, 2012 at 03:21 AM
"When a Rott or a Pit attacks you, you can end up dead". You should do some research. Start with statistics from the Center for Disease Control (CDC). When you see that very few people are killed by dogs, and you are about 500 times more likely to be murdered by your fellow species, don't be worried about that either. You are 800 more times likely to be killed in a car accident than by a dog. Do you worry every time you get in the car to drive? There's no point really. Just drive carefully. It is diabetes, heart disease, and cancer that will end up killing you dear readers. You don't need to worry about pit bulls, sharks, or Muslims.
Harold1968 October 12, 2012 at 03:00 PM
Laura, Really?? You need me to define the words "different" and "standard"?? There isn't much room to misinterpret these two words. Check any dictionary - the way they define the words is how I meant to use them. Wow...no wonder America is #47 in the world academically. God help us. "Citizens have a right to enjoy their private property without the interference of Government." ??? Example 1 of why you make no sense: A car is private property isn't it? The government requires that you have insurance for your car, doesn't it? The government requires that you have your car registered and inspected, doesn't it? Do you know why they do that? Because a car can be dangerous if it's not maintained. A car can be dangerous in the wrong hands. Do you have a car Laura? Example 2 of why you make no sense: Do you live in a house? A house is private property, right? The government requires that your house needs to be up to code. They inspect homes when they're built and renovated, right? They make sure the electrical system is satisfactory, they make sure the structure is sound. Do you know why? To make sure the occupants are SAFE. The government IS responsible for the safety of their citizens...even the one's that don't know what the words "different" and "standard" mean.
Conrad Heyer October 12, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Mayor Rosenblum is a political chameleon, very few core principals, and confused about the few he has. You will hear spout as his primary principal that "Government that governs least govern best." But in reality, he only believes that if he isn't in charge. His administration has gone on an orgy of rewriting local laws to benefit his agenda and those of his political patrons. The only thing that stopped him from trying to ban Pittys was the overwhelming public outrage that even he couldn't ignore.
Mary Too October 12, 2012 at 09:53 PM
. "how you live your life (including what type of dog you prefer) is no one's business but yours. Good for you for standing up and making yourselves heard!!" If I get bitten by an unprovoked dog of ANY breed, I assure you that it will quickly become my business, as well as the business of the owner. .
Harold1968 October 15, 2012 at 12:57 AM
Laura, How clueless are you? BSL is illegal in New York. Please do some research before you waste everyone's time posting. You can't discriminate against a specific breed of dog.
Allison October 15, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Conrad, In my opinion, the knee jerk reaction on most village matters that I have seen by this mayor is your 100% accurate assessment- The problem was that he reacted without doing his due diligence first. As far as I'm concerned for the sake of all village of Mamaroneck residents this MUST CHANGE
Harold1968 October 15, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Laura, You're correct. Your posts opposing laws that could never be enacted in New York were extremely logical and reasonable. Your references to Volkswagens and Native Americans were particularly effective in making me look foolish. Congratulations.
Victoria October 28, 2012 at 01:41 AM
Since he is responsible for his dog's lack of socialization and for failing to keep the dog under his care and control, Rigano is responsible for the death of the Coton and the injury to the woman. The courts should have banned Rigano from owning any dogs - ever - but that didn't happen. At the time of the attack, Rigano owned another dog, in addition to the attacking dog. Since the attack, he has replaced the dog he had to give up, so that he now, again, owns two pitbulls.


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