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October 31, 2002 - Death-row dog owner appeals decision

The owner of two Rottweilers sentenced to death for attacking a 3-year-old boy last November is appealing a district court's decision to put the dogs down. Debra Slater-Wise, attorney for dog owner Jason Schiller, said her client's appeal in Worcester Superior Court was mailed out Monday and should be on file with the courts in the next few days. Slater-Wise also said she agrees with the proposal to have the dogs held at a court-known location until the matter is completed in the courts.

On Nov. 7, Schiller's Rottweilers, Madison and Kodiak, attacked Matthew Sherlock while he was waiting in his driveway with his mother. In addition to biting his neck and back, and the dogs dragged the boy down his driveway. Two construction workers and a neighbor fought the dogs off. One of them, Ralph True, testified that he hit both dogs with a hammer to save the boy.

In his decision, Judge Losapio said he believed the Uxbridge Board of Selectmen acted properly when it decided last November to have the Rottweilers destroyed. Despite testimony from two animal experts who said the dogs are not vicious animals, Losapio said neither could explain why they attacked Matthew. The ruling upheld two previous decisions, one by Uxbridge selectmen and one by a clerk magistrate, who ordered the dogs to be destroyed.

The appeal process entails the court reviewing the findings of this summer's hearing, according to Gregg Corbo, the town's lawyer from Kopelman & Paige. It is uncommon, he said, for a case to reach this stage in the judicial process. Depending on the court's decision and how far the defendant is willing to take the matter, it is possible the case could be tied up in the courts for the next few years. If Worcester Superior Court upholds the district court's decision, it could then be appealed to the state's appeals court, Corbo said. Should that court affirm prior decisions, Schiller could then appeal that ruling to the state's Supreme Judicial Court, which has the right to refuse hearing the case.The Supreme Judicial Court is the last court in the appeal chain that could hear the case, he said. Corbo made clear that he can not estimate whether the case will continue that far. "It's too soon to tell," he said.

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