Pauline Blenner took her dog Chico out for a walk on the evening of June 19.
He never came home.
While walking up 111th Avenue in South Ozone Park between 115th and 116th streets, Chico became the target of a much larger, much stronger canine: a rottweiler.
The larger dog and its owner were walking the other way on 111th Avenue when the rottweiler, which Blenner said wasn’t on a leash, dashed across the busy road and attacked Chico, ripping open his stomach and leaving him with extensive injuries that required Blenner to spend thousands of dollars for surgery for her pet.
Despite all that, Chico succumbed to his injuries earlier this month.
In the meantime, Blenner has become trapped in what Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) described as a “maze of city bureaucracy” that has left her disgusted and cynical.
Immediately after the attack, Blenner went to the police, who told her their options were limited because no officer witnessed the attack to see the rottweiler off its leash. She filed a report with them, but that’s as far as the case has gone. Blenner also filed a lawsuit against the rottweiler’s owner in small claims court, but her court date isn’t until November.
“I just don’t know what else to do, or where else to go,” she said. “I’m really fed up. He was my best friend and my partner.”
She had been Chico’s owner for more than seven years, ever since they met during a vacation Blenner took in New Orleans. She took him home in a cage stowed away under her airplane seat.
In all those years, she walked him every day, and only once before had there been an incident with another dog. In that case, Blenner said, Chico ran from the dog and was not harmed.
“After that, I changed the route I walked him,” she said.
There was never another problem — until June 19.
Vallone, chairman of the Council’s Public Safety Committee, said he was very familiar with incidents like Blenner’s
“The city has completely abdicated its responsibility to protect our pets from vicious animals,” he said. “No city agency wants to take responsibility.”
Vallone said the system set up to respond to such a situation creates a vicious cycle that often leads the dog’s owner — perhaps purposely he suggested — to give up. For some of his constituents in Astoria who had similar experiences as Blenner, he’s had to personally intercede on their behalf.
At least two instances of dogs attacking people while not on a leash have been reported recently in southern Queens. One in Woodhaven a few months ago and another near Tudor Park in Ozone Park last summer.
In response to the complaints, Vallone pushed the city to reconvene the Dangerous Dog Board, which has fallen by the wayside in recent years.
The board, which is mandated by law, is made up of dog experts, including veterinarians, and is supposed to meet every four months to make recommendations about dog safety, including suggesting vaccinations and addressing safety concerns.
Vallone said the board only recently reconvened after he made threats to force the Mayor’s Office to comply through legal action.
He also said he’s hopeful things will change next year.
“Hopefully, with a new administration coming in, they will pay more attention to the safety of our pets,” Vallone said.
Unfortunately, that’s too late for Chico.-
“I miss him,” Blenner said, staring at the couch in her living room where Chico’s bed was. “I look over at the couch sometimes to see if he’s still there and then I realize he isn’t.”