Owner of Pit Bull That Killed Lap Dog Due Back in Court in August

The owner of a pit bull that killed a shih tzu earlier this month appeared in East Hampton Town Justice Court on Monday, and is due back in court mid-August after an adjournment.

Christine Hawkins, the owner of 3-year-old Thunder — who was euthanized after killing 7-year-old Lola in Springs earlier in July— is due back in court on Aug. 13, charged with three violations of town code: dog at large, property damage, and harassment by dog.

A fourth violation originally handed out under state Agriculture and Markets Law, having a dangerous dog, was dropped, Hawkins said, after Thunder was put down.

East Hampton Town prosecutor Joseph Prokop, hired by the town less than a month ago, requested an adjournment for the purposes of “due diligence.” Town code does not cite a maximum fine for second, or subsequent, violations under chapter 86 — the part responsible for animal violations. A minimum charge of $50 is required for a second offense and $100 for third and subsequent charges.

Hawkins said she was cited once previously for Thunder’s barking; Town Justice Lisa R. Rana mentioned a previous violation of chapter 86 in court, though did not elaborate.

In an interview following Monday’s proceedings, Hawkins said that several other complaints filed against her have been baseless and believes she is a target of surrounding homeowners, as she rents a home that was previously vacant and otherwise peaceful and quiet. In court on Monday, a woman Hawkins said has been “following” her was removed for taking photos of her in front of the judge.

“If my dog barks at a deer, someone calls,” Hawkins said. “He had never been aggressive toward anyone. I’m upset that he killed another woman’s dog, but he probably thought it was a play toy.”

Hawkins’ next-door-neighbor, Wendy Marks, witnessed her shih tzu killed by Thunder while she sought refuge in a car. She estimated that she and her neighbors have filed close to 25 complaints at Hawkins’ home over the past two years, mostly related to incessant barking. Town officials could not immediately confirm the number, and Marks couldn’t explain why more violations had not been handed out.

“I initially filed a complaint in 2010, when these renters moved in,” she said. “But I don’t have those answers. I don’t know about the budgets, and the cutbacks in the town … This is a small-town municipality. There might not be enough resources to combat all the issues that are faced.”

Marks, who said she once owned large breed dogs, cited famed dog trainer Cesar Milan and a New York City veterinarian Richard Fried while speaking about proper dog care. Quoting Milan, she said, “Dogs are like children: They need exercise, discipline and respect.”

Fried calls dogs “dangerous weapons,” she said, and as such proper safety measures must be taken by those in control.

Marks said inadequate care and safety measures related to Thunder, who was in the garage before getting out and killing Lola, led to her own dog’s death. Hawkins was not home at the time of the incident, and said she still does not know how the dog got out.

“It could have been me who was killed,” Marks said. And while dogs are not permitted to “be at large” under town code, Marks is calling for stricter enforcement.

“Should dog owners be allowed to not have fences? To not keep dogs on leashes? This was pure, simple negligence,” she said. “What will it take? To have a child killed by an animal off a leash?”

In the meantime, Marks did not comment on whether she would pursue litigation against Hawkins or the Town of East Hampton. She said she got a new shih tzu last Friday, a gift from a friend.

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