Friday, December 12, 2008

Fate of Ruckus the pit bull put off for another week

HIGHLANDS — Ruckus the pet pit bull terrier's day in court will have to at least wait another week.

Highlands Municipal Court Judge Peter A. Locasio Tuesday night rescheduled the hearing to Dec. 16 at 5 p.m. essentially to give David Foley, lawyer for Stephen and Irene Douglas -- owners of Ruckus -- time to prepare for a court trial if a settlement cannot be reached between the Douglases and an unidentified Keansburg resident who filed a complaint in October when Ruckus escaped for a second time.

Ruckus, who is required by court order to be in an enclosed space at all times, escaped from the Douglas yard on Oct. 6 by sliding under the fence. In an earlier escape in January, Ruckus attacked and injured a mail carrier.

The issue of whether Ruckus should live or die first arose Jan. 11, when Ruckus slid out the front door as Douglas' wife opened it. The dog ran down the street, chasing after postal worker Robert Ketch, 43, of Woodland Avenue.

Following that incident, Locasio approved an agreement in February that allowed the Douglases to get their dog back from the Associated Humane Societies shelter in Tinton Falls once they met court-ordered conditions on how to contain him.

In the October incident, Stephen Douglas said a neighbor witnessed the escape and called police. Keansburg police then notified the Associated Humane Societies, which picked up and impounded Ruckus the same day.

The Douglases received two summonses -- one for allowing Ruckus to get out, and another for violating the original court order.

In his original order, Locasio made it clear that the dog's owners must make sure that there would never be a second attack. Had Locasio ruled against the Douglases at the time, Ruckus would have been euthanized as a dangerous dog.

In contrast to Ruckus' first escape, Douglas said this time his dog did not approach or attack anyone.

Keansburg Municipal Court Judge Michael D. Pugliese was originally scheduled to hear the case, but he recused himself because of a friendship with someone with the Humane Societies.

To avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, the case was moved to Highlands.

Jim McConville: (732) 888-2632 or jmcconville@app.com

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