Driver 'cried over dog' before suing owner; Court weighs grief versus law

Driver 'cried over dog' before suing owner
Updated: Nov. 3, 2016 at 9:37 PM EDT
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Ken Herrington (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Ken Herrington (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Maggie Cassaro (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Maggie Cassaro (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A District Court Judge must decide what price to put on a dog's life.

More than $900; Maggie Cassaro's cost to repair her friend's 2002 Honda Accord when it and Ken Herrington's German Shepherd, Dakota, collided on Blankenbaker Lane near River Road three days before Halloween last year?

Or is it $500; Dakota's purchase price that Herrington wants Cassaro to reimburse after Dakota died of his injuries?

Herrington, a Marine Corps veteran who retired a Colonel, characterized Dakota as a companion and therapy dog, though he was not trained to be a service animal as the federal Americans With Disabilities Act defines it.

Judge Erica Lee Williams' ruling could set precedent for all pet owners in the Metro; the liability they might face if their pet causes damage, even if the encounter kills them.

PREVIOUS STORY: Driver suing veteran for damages after hitting, killing his dog

"It stirs up a lot of emotions,"  Williams told both parties before their hearing Thursday afternoon.

Williams won't hear any small claims case until the litigants headed into the hallway for a last-ditch effort to settle it on their own.

Cassaro and Herrington returned in minutes; their body language making clear neither had budged.

"What this is all about is responsibility," Cassaro told reporters afterward. "I took responsibility from the minute that dog ran into the car and I stopped and went back to find the family that owned that dog."

"My dog clearly did violate the law," Herrington said. "He was under my control, but when a less-than 4-year-old German Shepherd sees a deer, his instincts are gonna kick in."

He and Cassaro agree on little more than Dakota wasn't on a leash. Metro ordinances allow your dog to go without a leash as long as he/she is on your own property.

Off-property though, they must be on a leash, under control of a responsible person who is physically able to control them.

That's the basis for Cassaro's claim. "I didn't hit the dog, the dog hit me," she told Judge Williams.

"No one has a right to treat an animal like that, or a veteran, and extort money from them, to pay for their animal that was destroyed," Herrington said.

Judge Williams asked Cassaro whether her demeanor might have been off-putting, even insensitive to Herrington's grief.

Cassaro told reporters that Herrington wasn't there to see her cry when she first saw Dakota lying in the roadway.

"I'm mourning the death of my mother," she said. "And here is this dog that I'm pretty sure is not gonna make it, and I'm trying to give that dog as much love as I can."

Cassaro told Judge Williams that Herrington's homeowners' insurance had offered to cover the car repairs. Herrington refused, saying he couldn't ask a veterans'-owned insurer to cover such costs.

Each has accused the other of menacing. Cassaro claims Herrington refused to look at evidence she'd brought to court; photographs of vehicle damage and of Dakota, injured.

"He threatened me that if I did, after tonight he was going to make sure I was slandered all over social media," Cassaro said.

Herrington denied it; hopeful that Judge Williams will see Dakota's loss through his eyes.

"I will honor what the Judge rules, and will abide by the law," he said.

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