On November 5th, 2019 Legislator John Ferretti was outside his Levittown home with his family and two-year-old Tibetan Terrier named Benny. While outside, a neighbor’s dog escaped a nearby backyard and attacked Benny. Legislator Ferretti, along with the help of two other neighbors, tried to remove the attacking dog’s jaws from Benny, but could not get them to release. Finally, after Benny gave up fighting, and laid down lifeless, the neighbor’s dog finally let go of their prey.
Miraculously, Benny survived, but at a cost. Benny was forced to undergo multiple surgeries costing thousands of dollars to help nurse Benny back to health. He suffered five fractured ribs, bruised lungs, a fractured chest cavity and multiple lacerations. While over the next several months he made a complete physical recovery, mentally and emotionally he has never recovered. To this day, Benny cannot be around other dogs due to intense fear, and he is unable to go outside without an emotional struggle. He is not the same dog he was before the attack, and probably never will be again.
Following the attack, the dog that attacked Benny was taken by the Town of Hempstead and brought before a judge to determine if they could be returned to the community. The judge ruled that the dog was indeed a dangerous dog, but since the dog only attacked Benny, and did not bite Legislator Ferretti or any other people, the Judge was forced to return the dog to its owner, with no notice being given to the neighbors in the community that a dangerous dog lived at that house.
After the ordeal, it was also revealed that the dog had a long history of attacking other dogs.
As a result of this, Legislator Ferretti and Legislator Rose Marie Walker joined with Nassau SPCA’s Gary Rogers and Legislator Ferretti’s 8-year-old son Johnny, to announce legislation to stop other families from having to go through this same ordeal. ‘Benny’s Law,’ as Legislator Ferretti has dubbed the bill, mandates that if a judge determines that a dog meets the high threshold of being a ‘dangerous dog,’ then the owners of said dog must mail the judicial order, as well as notification to all their neighbors in an 1,000 foot or approximately 6-block radius to make sure they know of the potential threat. The notification will include the address of the dangerous dog and it’s identifying traits. An affidavit of mailing must be filled out afterward.
Further, The Nassau County Police Department will work with the Nassau SPCA to maintain a registry of judicially determined dangerous dogs, which will include the address of the property the dog is housed, the date of the incident, the duration of the dangerous dog designation, as well as the breed, weight, age and color of the dog. The Nassau SPCA will provide the law to the dog’s owner and explain the obligations.
Violation of this law will be a $500 fine, and an additional $100 a day fine for every day afterward that the law isn’t followed.
“Since that day when Benny was attacked, I continue to watch community members walk past that house with their pets and young children, unaware that a dangerous dog lives just steps away,” Legislator John Ferretti said. “This legislation will help to keep residents safe and informed; hopefully saving residents from having to go through what Benny, my family and I have had to go through."
“This is a very important law, because if you live in, say the Town of Hempstead and a District Court Judge has determined that you have a dangerous dog, but then move to the Town of North Hempstead or Town of Oyster Bay, there is no mechanism for those Towns or your new neighbors, to know that you have a dangerous dog,” NSPCA’s Gary Rogers said. “This law and this database will help protect not just our dogs and pets, but also our neighbors from other dangerous dogs throughout the County. It will also give owners of dangerous dogs the information they need to help their pet and protect it and others from it.”
“I saw Legislator Ferretti just a few short hours after the attack on Benny happened, and you could see how visibly upset he was about this,” Legislator Rose Marie Walker said. “Our pets are like our children, and when something like this happens, it’s a terrible ordeal. This law will make sure that residents know about dangerous dogs in the neighborhoods and know to take precautions when in the area.”
Legislator Ferretti continued: “I must also remind residents, that if you see an attack like this, or if your pet is attacked, please, call the police. That is how this law is triggered, and that is how we can make sure our neighborhood pets are safe.”
The legislation was passed through the Nassau County Legislative Committees on February 4th, 2021 by an unanimous vote. It now will procced to the full legislature.