According to an injunction motion filed in Albemarle County Circuit Court on Friday, Greene County residents Toni Stacey and Aubrey Wells are fighting the execution of their dog Niko, who currently resides at the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA.
On July 8, 2015, in Albemarle’s Circuit Court, Stacey was found guilty of being in control of a dangerous or vicious dog after Niko was alleged to have killed a neighbor’s cat months earlier.
Since then, the 5-year-old Staffordshire Pit Bull Terrier has remained in the control of the SPCA and the county’s animal control unit, awaiting an execution that has been scheduled for Sunday.
News of Niko’s impending demise infiltrated social media, culminating in a campaign by Buffalo, New York-based animal welfare organization Against All Oddz Animal Alliance to adopt the pup and spare his life. The organization, self-labeled as “zealous advocates for animals” that deal with dogs in the legal system, issued a news release Thursday saying it intended to “broker an agreement” to save Niko, whom the group believes may have been unfairly prosecuted.
“He has been convicted of killing a cat while he was at large despite no eyewitnesses to the act,” the release states. “Despite the murky circumstances, all appeals have been exhausted and it is understood that being accepted into AAOAA is Niko’s last hope.”
The group has since sent certified letters to Commonwealth’s Attorney Robert Tracci and Judge Cheryl Higgins “explaining their success in dealing with animals who have bitten in the past.” -- um, yeah, I don't believe that
Tracci has not responded to requests for comment on the matter.
“Our track record is impeccable, and from everything we know, Niko should be far easier to work with and place in a safe and loving environment than almost all of our other dogs that we have placed and that are now thriving,” said AAOAA founder Matthew Albert. “I am very hopeful that [Tracci] and I can have a good conversation and I will provide the commonwealth with assurance that Niko will be kept in a very safe and loving environment ... far away from Albemarle.”
A Facebook page linked to the release, “Prayer’s for Niko/Niko Strong,” has accrued more than 3,600
The local SPCA issued a release of its own the following morning, acknowledging that Niko has been in its care in the organization’s capacity as the county’s pound, which must occasionally act as a custodian of animals subject to court action.
“The wheels of justice turn slowly and Niko has been with us for approximately two years,” the release states. “During this time, he has received the same quality care as all animals in our shelter.”
The release goes on to state that Niko has been declared “vicious” by the county’s general district and circuit courts, and that the SPCA has no involvement with the court proceedings. It is not a party to the proceedings, cannot provide evidence that implicates Niko as “vicious,” or comment on the evidence that already exists in the case, the release states.
While the dog has been ordered to be humanely euthanized, the release continues, the SPCA has no role in that decision.
“During the approximately two years Niko has been in our care, we have done everything possible to manage a very unfortunate situation for everyone involved,” the release states. “The care provided has exceeded what Niko would experience at many pounds throughout Virginia as we awaited a court’s decision.”
Later on Friday, Wells and Stacey made a final effort to stall the planned execution by filing a motion to temporarily suspend the enforcement of the judge’s 2015 ruling. The filing argues that because Niko is technically Wells’ property, his being put down would be an “unconstitutional deprivation of property in violation of due process” because Wells was not provided a chance to defend Niko and argue as to why his life should be spared.
Niko’s execution would create “irreparable harm” for Wells, it continues, while sparing him would create “little to no cost” for the county, the SPCA and animal control. To stall the court order also would serve the public interest, the motion adds.
“To allow one’s irreplaceable personal property to be destroyed without a proper hearing for all interested parties would undermine the fundamentals of our judicial system and the foundation of our social and legal framework,” the motion states.
The attorney for Niko’s owners said late Friday that the court had yet to respond to the motion, but it’s hoped the matter will be taken up before Sunday.
(Charlottesville Daily Progress - Dec 17, 2016)