STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- The owners of a pit bull fatally shot by police earlier this month have filed a lawsuit against the city and the officer who pulled the trigger.
Patricia Ratz and her fiancé, Pat Gugliemo, who owned the luckless pit bull dropped by a police bullet in Travis' Schmul Park on April 6, brought suit Monday in federal court against New York City and NYPD Officer Julie Moschella.
"This was an entirely preventable tragedy," said the Travis couple's Manhattan attorney, Ronald L. Kuby, as he stood before a makeshift memorial for Baby Girl at the park's entrance.
Baby Girl lingered for five days before dying April 11 at a New Jersey veterinary practice, but not before medical procedures that generated a $17,000 bill.
The civil lawsuit, which demands a jury trial, seeks unspecified damages, including reimbursement for the veterinary bill and a change in NYPD policy when it comes to officers dealing with pets, notably dogs.
The lawsuit also calls for Officer Moschella's firing.
"No one should be carrying a badge and a gun who opens fire on a beautiful Saturday in a park in a residential area at a dog from a distance of 150 feet," Kuby said, adding that perhaps 10 bullets were shot at the animal in what he deemed a "mind-bogglingly reckless and irresponsible" action.
Kuby also said that, according to 2011 statistics, police fired weapons 36 times at people and 36 times at dogs.
"Twenty-four of those people had guns. In the 36 times police officers fired at dogs, none of the dogs had guns."
A major aim of the lawsuit, said Kuby, is to increase public awareness regarding dogs being considered as property.
"Under New York state law, dogs are considered to be mere property. They're not different than a six-pack of beer or a porch railing," he explained. "You're only entitled to replacement value of the property."
Kuby wants that changed to allow for emotional damages when a pet is killed.
"This will hopefully serve as a deterrent to other pet killers in the future."
On the day of the incident, Ms. Ratz and her sister brought their three pit bulls to the park. Two of the dogs -- neither of them Baby Girl -- began to fight. Ms. Ratz, in an attempt to break it up, stuck her hand between the two dogs and one of them bit her, prompting a police response.
Ms. Ratz and her sister said Officer Moschella and a plainclothes colleague arrived moments after the fight and opened fire on Baby Girl after she and Ms. Ratz' other dog, Bo, started and ran.
That's when cops fired upward of 10 shots at the dogs, hitting Baby Girl in the back as she ran off, the lawsuit says.
Police have said the incident is under investigation. The Daily News said Monday that Officer Moschella is still on active duty and fired seven times when the dog charged her.
NYPD sources have characterized it as a "cut-and-dried" instance of an officer's shooting an aggressive dog to protect the public.
All three dogs were off their leashes, those sources said, and the officers rushed to the scene because of Ms. Ratz's screams.