The West Virginia Supreme Court reverses decision in Bluefield p - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

The West Virginia Supreme Court reverses decision in Bluefield pit bull case.

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Estella Robinson outside the Mercer County Circuit Court in Aug. 2013 Estella Robinson outside the Mercer County Circuit Court in Aug. 2013

CHARLESTON, WV (WVVA) The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals sides with a local woman. The City of Bluefield did not have the authority to order her pit bull destroyed.

You may recall, on March 6, 2013, Randall Thompson, the City of Bluefield's Animal Control officer, was bitten by a pit bull while responding to a complaint at the home of Estella Robinson.

A month later, Robinson pleaded guilty in Municipal Court to owning a dangerous animal. The animal was ordered to be put down. However, the order was put on hold for 30 days on the condition that Robinson found her dog a home outside of Bluefield and an expert that determined the animal could be rehabilitated.

In May 2013, Robinson told the Municipal Court she had found a home but did not have an expert's opinion. The dog was again ordered to be destroyed.

Robinson then filed an appeal with the Mercer County Circuit Court. That appeal was heard on July 24. One week later, Judge William Sadler denied the appeal. Sadler ruled that the Municipal Court does have the power to order the animal put down. The court document emphasized that the appeal was not whether or not the pit bull should be killed, but whether the Municipal Court has the authority to do so.

In the West Virginia Supreme County decision released on October 2, 2014, The City of Bluefield did not have the power to order Robinson's pit bull destroyed. Though municipal courts have the power to order the destruction of  "animals or fowls"  that are "vicious, dangerous, or in the habit of biting or attacking other persons," the WV Supreme Court says the law does not specifically apply to dogs. The City of Bluefield does have the right to have dogs ordered destroyed, but only after the animals are proven "vicious and dangerous" in a Magistrate or Circuit court.

CLICK HERE TO READ SUPREME COURT OF APPEALS OF WEST VIRGINIA DECISION

According to the WV Supreme Court, "A municipality may enact an ordinance prohibiting a person from owning, keeping or harboring a dog known to be vicious, dangerous or in the habit of biting or attacking persons, and may pursue charges against an owner of such a dog in municipal court. However, a municipality seeking an order to kill a vicious or dangerous dog must do so in circuit or magistrate court and follow the procedure this Court set forth in Durham v. Jenkins, 229 W.Va. 669, 674, 735 S.E.2d 266, 270 (2012) (“For a magistrate or circuit court to obtain authority to order a dog killed, the magistrate or judge must first find, upon conducting a criminal proceeding, that a crime described in the first sentence of § 19-20-20 has been committed. This Court holds that the authority to order a dog killed pursuant to W.Va. Code § 19-20-20 (1981), stems solely from a criminal proceeding, and a private cause of action may not be brought for the destruction of a dog under this section.”)."

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