West Virginia Record

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Dog saved by state Supreme Court ruling back at rescue

By Kyla Asbury | Oct 19, 2015


HUNTINGTON – A dog saved by the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals when it overturned a destruction order earlier this year is back at the rescue that originally saved her.

Capri Billings, the director of River Cities Bully Buddies, the rescue that originally rescued Tinkerbell, said after the issue was resolved in the Supreme Court, Tinkerbell, who is affectionately called Tink, was returned to the rescue and not the previous owners.

Billings said Michael Blatt and Kim Blatt had little to nothing to do with Tink during the civil action and surrendered her back to the rescue.

"We found Tink an attorney who would work pro bono and we fought for her," Billings said. "She's a good dog, so we took her back and are hoping to find her another good home in the future."

Tink, who is about 3 years old, is staying at Billings' home with her and her children while they wait for the perfect home for the dog.

"She is comfortable where she is," Billings said. "She is happy here and will continue to stay with me until we find her the perfect home. We always ask that if a family cannot keep a dog for some reason, that they release the dog back to us."

Billings said people have so much hatred for dogs just because of how they look.

"She's safe with us," Billings said. "The Blatts might have been subjected to animosity from other people because of the exposure of the lawsuit. They are good people."

Billings said they had a lot of interest in Tink when the Supreme Court first overturned the destruction order, but they have had no one interested in her since.

"She's doing great with us," Billings said. "But, I would really like to find her a good home. She is a wonderful dog and deserves the perfect family."

The Supreme Court overturned the order for Tink's destruction in June, after she nipped at a child in 2014.

Wayne Circuit Court had ordered that Tinkerbell, a female pit bull terrier mix, be destroyed pursuant to West Virginia's vicious dog statute, after she injured a child who was playing in the yard of Michael Blatt and Kim Blatt.

The circuit court's decision that Tinkerbell be destroyed relied on a presumption that pit bull dog breeds are inherently vicious.

An 8-year-old, identified as L.L., was injured by Tinkerbell when L.L. was playing in his neighbors' yard.

The state brought charges against the Blatts, alleging that they violated W.Va. code by "knowingly harboring a dog that is vicious, dangerous or in the habit of biting or attacking other persons."

The circuit court conducted two hearings on June 17, 2014, and June 30, 2014, and, although the circuit court found the Blatts were not guilty of harboring a vicious dog, it nonetheless ordered the destruction of Tinkerbell, finding her to be vicious.

Tinkerbell was very high energy, but had no problems with children and was very loving, according to the Supreme Court's June 16 opinion.

After the Blatts adopted her, Tinkerbell was regularly with the Blatts' 6- and 9-year old children and slept in bed with the children. Kim Blatt testified that Tinkerbell also interacted with several of her nieces and nephews and that she had never witnessed Tinkerbell display any aggressive behavior.

On March 31, 2014, L.L. and his sister were playing together in the Blatts' side yard with the Blatts' two children and, during this time, Tinkerbell was confined to the inside of the house and the fenced-in front yard.

When Michael Blatt's mother arrived at the house, she left the fence open and Tinkerbell ran out and went to where the children were playing. When she found the ball the children were playing with, she began to bury it and L.L. went to get the ball from her.

As the Blatts' 9-year-old, identified as N.B., testified, Tinkerbell "has no hands, so she used her mouth. She nipped .. to get the ball down," according to the opinion.

After Tinkerbell bit L.L., he held his hands against his face, which was bleeding, and cried for his parents. Tinkerbell ran into the house and hid under the bar stools, according to N.B.'s testimony.

Tinkerbell was seized by Animal Control Officer Phillip Hickey with the Huntington-Cabell-Wayne Animal Shelter, who stated that Tinkerbell did not appear to be aggressive.

The court entered an order ordering Tinkerbell's destruction on July 7, 2014.

While this incident clearly illustrates that Tinkerbell — or any dog — can cause harm, the court does not believe that the facts in the record establish the likelihood that Tinkerbell poses such a risk of future harm to the public that the risk would warrant her destruction, the opinion stated.

The Blatts were represented by Charles K. Garnes Jr. of Campbell Woods.

The state was represented by Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Assistant Attorney General Derek A. Knopp.

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Organizations in this Story

West Virginia Supreme Court of AppealsVirginia Attorney General's OfficeCampbell Woods PLLC