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New York, NY – Almost three weeks ago, Daniel José Correa went for a walk with Zelda, a precious 5-year-old pom chi rescue, Around the corner from the apartment building, he is sharing with his wife Marin in Harlem when suddenly a large pit bull, who had escaped the grip of their owners, approached Zelda and pierced her chest cavity and stomach.
Daniel did everything he could to remove the pit bull from Zelda, but when the pit bull gave up its bite, Zelda’s intestines were exposed.
In an interview with Daniel and Marin, Daniel understandably related the terrible incident with some emotion as he explained the details.
He came home from work at Montefiore Medical Center, where he works as a neurologist, and took Zelda for a walk on Wednesday, April 7th at 7:30 pm. He and Marin live at 2300 Frederick Douglass Blvd on 124th Street and normally he would show Zelda around the block. Zelda was familiar with the route and did her business in a specific place every day. And she finished her business as usual that day when Daniel answered her and told her that she was a good girl.
As they were leaving, Daniel turned to see a couple about six feet away with a pit bull that was not properly leashed and tied. Instead, the pit bull put a chain around his neck and a rope replaced a leash. For some reason, the male owner gave the rope to his partner and during this transition the pit bull fell on Zelda.
“When the pit bull rushed towards us, I put my foot out to try to push the dog away, but the dog walked around me, grabbed Zelda on her side, and no matter what I or the owner did, the dog just wanted it don’t let go – both the owner and I grabbed the dog, pulled on his collar, hit him in the head and just yelled at him, ”Daniel said.
During the encounter, Daniel suffered bruises and eyelashes on his hand and his glasses and cell phone were forcibly thrown on the floor. Finally the pit bull let go and for a moment Daniel was hopeful because Zelda was still standing. But when he checked both of their sides, he saw blood and intestines oozing from the right side.
He picked up Zelda immediately and began to apply pressure, but for a moment he was shocked by what had just happened and wasn’t sure what to do next. He had to get Zelda to a veterinary clinic quickly, but at the same time had to find out who the owners were whose dog Zelda had just seriously injured.
But the owners just repeated that they were sorry and that they would not provide their names or contact information. Then Daniel called his wife Marin to tell her to bring a towel and meet him outside.
Marin ran out of the apartment building to meet Daniel. She noticed another, little dog had bitten Zelda a few years ago, but it wasn’t life threatening. She had taken her to the Animal Medical Center on E 62nd Street, where the doctors were operating and Zelda was fine.
“So, I guess I thought, ok, this is scary, this is bad, maybe she needs to have another operation. I didn’t think the worst, ”said Marin.
An app-based driver then showed it and drove her to the Animal Medical Center again, but the doctors this time explained that Zelda would have to be in the hospital for at least a week to undergo at least two surgeries, and even that would likely not survive.
“We just didn’t want to get her through all of this, with the likelihood that she would die in surgery or die alone without us. That’s why we put them to sleep that night and were at least able to hold them, say goodbye and let them go peacefully, “said Marin.
The tragic incident was traumatic for both Daniel and Marin, especially Daniel for witnessing it. They are still grieving and they both miss Zelda very much. But they are still frustrated and upset, not only with the owners of the pit bull, but also because they don’t seem to have any obvious legal recourse.
New York has a law called the Dog Bite Law, which provides recourse to when a dog bites a human but no recourse to when a dog bites another dog.
State Senator Robert G. Ortt (R-62) introduced laws updating the law in January 2019, but these were not passed by the Senate Pet Protection Committee, and according to the Senator’s Office, the laws were not reintroduced the legislative session 2021-2022.
Marin and Daniel immediately filed a report with the NYPD 28th District, but they, as well as NYC 311, NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and NYC Animal Care Centers, all regretted having no way of action take to prevent the dog from harming others in the future, as there are no provisions in the law.
“When a dog bites another dog, or a pet bites another pet, there is absolutely no process, there is no reporting, let alone any follow-up or consequences,” Marin said.
She and Daniel both stressed that they were not interested in any monetary damage or compensation for veterinary or hospital bills. They are not interested in seeking punishment or even justice because they cannot get back what they really want, which is Zelda.
What they want, however, is that such an incident never happen again.
“It happens all over New York State and across the country because we seem to care more about the right of an individual to walk the street with a gun, whether it’s a dog or an assault rifle, than protecting them individual weapons different, ”said Marin.
The couple started an online petition to amend New York’s Dog Bite Act to repeat the pet-on-pet bite reporting process to be the same as that used for an animal bite from a human becomes. Over 2,800 people have signed the petition and the target of the petition is 5,000 signatures.
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