An ongoing case in Charlottesville, Virginia has pit bull lovers and animal advocates across the nation and around the world up in arms. Toni Stacy and her pit bull Niko have been living a nightmare since December 2014 when Niko was seized by the Albemarle County Animal Control in Virginia. He has been imprisoned for three and a half years based on allegations that he killed a cat.
According to Toni and other witnesses, it all started when Niko accidentally escaped from his home. Toni chased after him and found him at a neighbor’s house. The neighbor claimed her cat was dead, and Niko was the guilty one. However, no one saw the dog kill the senior cat, and there were no puncture wounds on the cat’s body, nor was there blood anywhere on Niko’s mouth to indicate he had attacked and killed another animal. The cat was never taken to the vet nor was a necropsy performed to prove Niko was the killer.
Despite lack of evidence, Niko was deemed vicious and locked up in December of 2014. And he is still there today. The case has gone through the appeals process and is now awaiting a hearing in the Supreme Court of Virginia. According to Toni Stacy, Niko’s owner, who has owned the dog him since he was seven-weeks-old and he grew up alongside a four-year-old child and other animals, has never once showed any signs of aggression toward anyone. To prove Niko’s innocence further, Toni had him assessed by a dog behaviorist who also deemed Niko as non-aggressive.
However, the Albemarle County Animal Control Office is standing strong on labeling Niko a dangerous dog and want him killed. Many rescues have offered to take Niko in, but he is refused his freedom. To inflict further pain and suffering on Niko, he is no longer allowed out of his kennel for exercise thanks to a decision handed down by the Director of Animal Control. When Niko first arrived at the Charlottesville /Albemarle SPCA, he was allowed out of his cage for walks and play time with Toni. He was suffering from so much anxiety he needed to be medicated. Toni was only allowed to visit him once a week and when she did, Niko just looked at her through the cage and cried, his spirit broken and his anguish obvious.
This was nothing short of animal cruelty; keeping a dog in a cage all day and night. Even if a dog is accused of a crime, they still deserve to be treated humanely and their physical and emotional needs met. Human prisoners who have committed far more heinous crimes than allegedly killing a cat, are allowed time in the exercise yard. Why should a dog, another living being not be allowed these same allowances?
According to Toni Stacy and her attorney Elliott Harding, they went to court on March 29, 2018 and unfortunately, they did not win their case in the appellate court. However, they are appealing to the Supreme Court. On a good note, Toni did get outside visits granted for Niko when she visits him, and is allowed to take him out into the exercise yard.
Niko’s case is eerily like the case of Tony the Pit Bull in Clifton, Arizona who was executed in 2012 based on zero evidence that he killed a neighbor’s dog. He was made the scapegoat since he was a pit bull when all evidence pointed to a coyote killing the dog. Once again there were no witnesses and no medical evidence linking the dog to the crime.
Many are taking a stand for Niko and have launched a petition on his behalf on Change.org
This injustice is happening repeatedly not only in this country but all over the world. There is a certain breed specific prejudice and hysteria taking place which is causing countless dogs to be killed and the rights of their owners totally disregarded.
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