Eli Mendlowitz was playing with six other youngsters in the driveway of 68 N. Cole Avenue at 6 PM when he was knocked to the ground by a dog owned by neighbors who live across the street.
Surveillance video shows the dog, believed to be a pit bull, repeatedly biting the boy’s face and neck with nearby adults intervening and rescuing the toddler within seconds. Mendlowitz, the ninth of ten children who lives several houses away, is estimated to be two and a half years old.
Both the Spring Valley Police Department and Hatzolah were on scene within three minutes of the attack. An initial police investigation revealed that the dog had gotten outside when a door to the family residence at 67 N. Cole Avenue was inadvertently left open.
Police said that all of the dog’s vaccinations were current and that its owners were ticketed for not having proper insurance for the animal.
Mendlowitz was transported to Nyack Hospital where he received an unknown number of stitches.
N. Cole Avenue resident Gedalia Weinberger said that his children have been chased by the dog on several occasions.
“My children are afraid,” Weinberger told VIN News. “I’m afraid to let my kids go outside to play.”
Weinberger said that the dog has been a problem for more than six months and that while its owners have said that they will be more vigilant, nothing has changed. He dismissed the notion that the dog had gotten out accidentally on those occasions when it has been spotted roaming N. Cole Avenue.
“They let it run loose,” said Weinberger.
Several Chasidic residents of the block said that the dog can often be seen running down the street. A next door neighbor who agreed to be interviewed only on condition of anonymity said that many live in fear of the dog.
“I don’t feel comfortable to go outside or to let kids outside,” said the neighbor.
But a Hispanic woman who declined to give her name said that she lives next door to the pit bull and that her children, ages eight, seven and three, often play with the dog. She said that the dog is named Max, and that she had never seen him act aggressively.
“I don’t know what happened,” said the woman, speaking about the Thursday night mauling.
According to the Spring Valley Police Department, only one dog complaint has been issued over the past year on N. Cole Avenue, which runs just over half a mile long through the heart of the village. But residents of the block said that they have filed multiple reports with police about the dog and have no idea why no official records exist of those complaints.
Neighbors also charged that police initially told the animal’s owners to keep the dog confined for the next ten days, only showing up to take the dog to an animal shelter four and a half hours later after video of the attack went viral on social media. The video caught note of Chelsea Clinton who tweeted at 11 PM last night “Horrific. No child should suffer this. No animal (or person) should ever be in a position to do this to anyone, certainly not a child.”
Spring Valley resident Yossi Gestetner, founder of OJPAC which advocates for Jewish causes, said that the police department dropped the ball in its initial handling of the incident, by waiting four and a half hours to remove the dog.
“You take the dog away and then you let a judge take care of the rest,” said Gestetner.
The police department’s failure to take complaints from local residents seriously is one of the reasons why people are hesitant to report incidents to law enforcement, said Gestetner.
“Yesterday’s action by the police department or inaction, was inexcusable and retroactively explains maybe the reluctance of some people to call the cops, because they don’t see some serious action,” observed Gestetner, who called on the police department to be more responsive to the concerns of the Jewish community.
Article II of Chapter 71 of the Village of Spring Valley’s official code is devoted in entirety to pit bulls and dangerous dogs, and is known as the “Spring Valley Pit Bull Law.” The law notes that the village “has an extremely dense population and an extremely large number of dogs, many of which are pit bulls or another dangerous breed of dog” which can “create a public danger to health and safety.” According to the village code, all pit bulls or other dangerous dogs must be restrained by a collar, leash and a harnessed muzzle when taken outdoors and owners must have $100,000 in liability insurance for animals described in Article II. Fines for a first violation range from $100 to $500, while fines for second subsequent violations are set at $500 to $1,000.
Dogs whose owners have been found guilty of violating the law on two occasions may be confiscated by the village and possibly destroyed.