Michigan Couple Receives Prison Sentence Over Dog Attack
The owners of two dogs who mauled a Lapeer County man to death in July 2014 have been sentenced to nearly 5 years in prison for owning dogs they knew to be dangerous and failing to properly restrain them.
46-year-old Craig Sytsma of Livonia was jogging in Metamora Township on July 23, 2014 when he was attacked by two cane corso dogs owned by Sebastiano Quagliata and Valbona Lucaj. The dogs had gotten out of their pen and attacked him and mauled him to death on the side of the road. Neighbors saw what was happening and tried to help, but to no avail. One of the neighbors had to fire a gun at the dogs to get them to leave Sytsma. Another neighbor who came to help had worked as an EMT for several years and tried to stop the bleeding and provide medical assistance until emergency crews could arrive, but the dogs had done so much damage, it was impossible for her to control the bleeding.
The two dogs involved in the attack on Sytsma, plus one other adult dog, were taken from Quagliata and Lucaj’s home and were euthanized due to their highly aggressive nature. Eight cane corso puppies were also taken from the home and were adopted out to homes across the country. By all reports, the puppies who were adopted out are doing well and have not shown any problems with aggression.
Prior to the attack on Craig Sytsma, the dogs owned by Quagliata and Lucaj had been involved in civil lawsuits with two separate people who had been bitten by the dogs in 2012 and 2013. In both cases, the plaintiffs were bitten by the dogs, who were roaming around unrestrained, as they were walking along the road where Quagliata and Lucaj lived. A person who bought a puppy from the family testified about being disturbed by the adult dogs’ aggression and said he heard Quagliata refer to the dogs as “guard dogs.” The dogs’ veterinarian also testified about the dogs’ extremely aggressive behavior during the trial.
Quagliata and Lucaj were arrested shortly after the incident and have been in custody ever since. They had been facing second-degree murder charges, but later entered a guilty plea to a lesser charge of owning a dangerous animal causing death as part of a plea agreement.
Judge Nick Holowka said of the case, “It’s something that could’ve been so easily prevented, and it was not…It’s a demise that should not be wished upon anyone, not even our worst enemies.” The family of Craig Sytsma hopes the death of their son will prompt some changes to Michigan state laws regarding dog bites and vicious dogs so that no other family will ever have to go through what they have gone through as a result of this dog attack.
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