RIO RANCHO, N.M. (KRQE) – A family whose dog was taken away after he got out and bit a neighbor was held at Animal Control for more than a year. The family battled it out in court with the City of Rio Rancho and won.
Last week, the family celebrated a sweet victory when a municipal court judge ruled in its favor.
KRQE News 13 first told you about this story back in April of last year. At the time, the family had been without Tiny for nearly five months.
Erik Gee and Brianne Martinez lived without their pet for 14 months.
According to Martinez, the 10-year-old American Bulldog, named Tiny, had escaped from the family’s yard and bit their neighbor.
“I get phone call, ‘Your dog bit me.'” Martinez said.
According to the report from Animal Control, the neighbor claimed Tiny bit him and his wife.
The incident happened December 9, 2015. Tiny was taken by Animal Control.
According to Rio Rancho’s city ordinance, a dog has to be quarantined for 10 days after biting someone. Those 10 days turned into more than 400 days by the time Martinez and Gee got Tiny back.
“It was an obvious mistake,” Martinez said. “I really didn’t think it would go this far.”
The ordinance also states Animal Control has 14 days, after a dog is taken in, to file a petition in order to deem the dog dangerous. If it doesn’t, it’s required to “immediately release the dog to its owner.”
The city never filed the petition until January 14, 2016, nearly a month after its deadline — and Animal Control still refused to release Tiny.
At the time, the Rio Rancho Police Department said Animal Control initially deemed Martinez the owner, but it’s Gee’s mom who purchased Tiny. The city claimed that was the confusion and what caused a delay in filing paperwork.
The family hired an attorney and took their chances in court.
“It was difficult to even find an attorney who would take this on,” Martinez said. “John Nilan fought with us the entire time.”
The family also racked up a bill for every day Tiny spent at Animal Control. It costs $10 day. Then, last week a judge ruled against the city, saying Tiny was in fact “not dangerous” and needed to be “immediately released to its owner.”
“Couldn’t believe what we were hearing,” Gee said.
Martinez said one of the reason’s she fought so hard is so other families don’t have to go through a similar situation.
“I knew they were wrong. I knew he wasn’t vicious and dangerous,” Martinez said. “You know, for people who enforce the law, then don’t follow it. It’s sad.”
The family was also cleared from the more than $4,000 tab at Animal Control. Tiny was released with no conditions.
KRQE News 13 called the City of Rio Rancho to get its take on the ruling. A captain with Rio Rancho police replied saying, “We respectfully disagree with the judge’s decision,” and that the case is going before the New Mexico Court of Appeals.