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Dangerous Animal Appeal Board upholds determination on two Nags Head dogs

Nags Head’s Dangerous Animal Appeal Board met for a hearing regarding two dogs determined “dangerous” or “potentially dangerous” by Nags Head Police Chief Phil Webster after an incident that occurred on May 7.

Serving on the DAAB were town manager Cliff Ogburn and Nags Head residents Jeff Ackerman (elected chairman) and Marvin Demers.

The appellant, Jack Pasternak, and his wife Sandra Pasternak were present, along with three witnesses called upon by Webster.

It was reported that on May 7, Pasternak’s neighbors Robert and Anita Edwards arrived at the Pasternak residence in the 2400 block of S. Memorial Avenue. Pasternak was unaware the couple would be coming, but invited them in the house.

Jack Pasternak and his two female pitbull mixes, both about 20 months old, were inside the residence at the time of entry.

According to the testimonies of Webster, the Edwardses, Pasternak and Animal Control Officer Jimmy Pierce, Pasternak restrained one of the dogs, Crystal, and upon walking into the home, the other dog, Diamond, proceeded to jump on Anita Edwards’s back and shoulders. At that time, Robert Edwards attempted to remove the dog from his wife.

The couple made their way to the outside back deck of the house when Crystal broke free from Pasternak’s grasp, where both the dogs attacked Robert Edwards. After being knocked to the ground and suffering lacerations and punctures to the face, arms and legs, he managed to get up and the couple removed themselves from the home shortly after.

Once the Edwardses returned to their own home, they said they realized the wounds were significant and went to Beach Medical Center for treatment. Anita Edwards chose to not be treated for any injuries.

Beach Medical Center contacted Animal Control and Pierce received testimonies from Anita Edwards and Jack Pasternak that day. He explored the Pasternak premises and learned of a prior incident with Crystal in August 2019. The neighbor who was bitten in August had not filed a police report at the time of the incident. “Diamond was not around during that bite,” Pierce confirmed by way of testimony.

Crystal and Diamond were relocated to Dare County Animal Shelter after the incident on May 7.

Over the course of the witness testimonies from the Edwardses, Pierce and Jack Pasternak, the board learned that Crystal had been through a training program twice, which Sandra Pasternak said she “never failed.”

Sandra Pasternak also noted that the dog usually wore a shock collar, but was not wearing one that day.

In differentiating the two dogs, the Pasternaks agreed that Crystal was the more aggressive of the two. “She’s very protective of the house,” Jack Pasternak commented. “By all statements, Diamond is always referred to as the more docile of the two dogs,” Pierce noted.

Ogburn inquired whether there was provoking from the Edwardses to instigate aggressive behavior from the dogs, to which Pierce said “none whatsoever.”

The Pasternaks both expressed their deep apologies. “It was a tragic incident,” stated Jack Pasternak, “I really regret what happened.” Sandra Pasternak explained that if the decision were to be overturned, she planned to send Crystal to a rescue facility.

Initially, Jack Pasternak had only appealed for Diamond and not Crystal, but after a rescue center expressed interest in Crystal, the couple decided to appeal for her as well.

Letters of recommendation from Holiday Barn Pet Resorts, Gallery Row Animal Hospital and others were read into the record in defense of Diamond and Crystal. The letters described the dogs as “sweet and gentle” and “very agreeable to examine.”

After hearing from everyone, the board deliberated the fate of the two dogs separately.

As for Crystal, Demers said, “I don’t see where we have any latitude other than to say that these criteria have been met.” The criteria being North Carolina General Statute 67-4.1.

Ackerman felt the situation was “gut-wrenching,” but made a motion to uphold the decision made by Webster. A unanimous vote followed.

As for Diamond, the board was torn. Ogburn offered placing restrictions in an effort to keep Diamond, but the board is only allowed to uphold or overturn a decision, not place stipulations. “Anything we would try to consider outside of that is really irrelevant,” Ogburn admitted.

Demers agreed the decision with Diamond was not as cut and dry, but the duty of the board was the address whether Webster “has done what he was supposed to do.”

“Based on the facts presented, the investigation . . . guidance that he has is the state statute,” Ackerman said. “We may wish for more leniency within those, but it simply doesn’t exist.”

Ultimately, Diamond’s determination was motioned to be upheld. The Pasternaks were given ten days to file an appeal with the clerk of the Dare County Superior Court. They also must file an appeal with the Nags Head town clerk by June 1.

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