Magistrate Philippa McFarlane sentenced a man Wednesday who had been found guilty of two charges of suffering a ferocious dog to be at large, as well as criminal trespass and damage to property.
Duke Perrigoffe Merren, who pleaded guilty after his trial had started, was sentenced to two months’ imprisonment for each of the dog-related charges. He was sentenced to three months for criminal trespass, all sentences to run concurrently, but suspended for two years.
Merren was also ordered to pay $250 for damaging his neighbor’s property and $500 as contribution for the neighbor’s medical expenses. Merren’s dogs, currently held by the Department of Agriculture, will be put to sleep as a consequence of what happened.
Magistrate McFarlane cited section 41.1 of the Animals Law, which states that if an animal has been dangerously out of control on more than one occasion, it can be surrendered to the Department of Agriculture for immediate destruction. Magistrate McFarlane had previously ordered Merren’s dogs to be destroyed, but the animals were spared until the case and the sentencing had concluded.
The magistrate read the facts of the case before Wednesday’s sentencing. She said Merren had confronted his neighbors on the mistaken belief that they had kicked his dogs. Merren kicked open their gate, causing damage, and his dogs attacked the complainants while he was arguing with them.
This attack, said Magistrate McFarlane, was “entirely unprovoked.”
The court also found that Merren’s dogs had not been controlled and were frequently allowed to roam the street. On two prior occasions, his dogs had attacked a dog owned by his neighbors.
The magistrate lauded Merren for erecting a dog enclosure to his yard following his trial, but she said he carried a “higher degree of culpability” than normal. There was no evidence that he had acted on his prior knowledge of his dogs’ aggression, she said, and the harm to the complainants was “significant.”
In the incident, which occurred in March 2016, the male neighbor was bitten on his right hand and the female neighbor was bitten on her right leg. Both needed several stitches to close their wounds.
Attorney Brett Basdeo had appeared as amicus at a previous hearing, when he said Merren had asked him to argue against the destruction order.
The magistrate said Merren exhibited a “minimal level of remorse” following the offense and that his dogs were “largely feral in nature.” She said that there were no mitigating factors in the case, and she concluded that she could not be satisfied that the dogs would be properly controlled in the future.
The defendant had contended that the injuries were accidental, incurred when he and the couple were trying to separate their dogs.