Sean McKearn planted a kiss on the head of his dog Tyson, then hoisted the brawny French mastiff and guided it into a cage inside a city animal control van.
Moments earlier, McKearn’s other dog, Vick, a Staffordshire terrier, was coaxed with treats into a separate cage.
With both dogs secured, animal control Officer James O’Brien drove off, escorted by a police car, to the city kennel.
The handover punctuated an emotional morning for the McKearn family, who continued to defend their pets even as they expressed remorse for the dogs’ deadly attack on a smaller dog. Templeton, a terrier, was mauled on June 30 by Tyson and Vick and died a few days later.
“They are family dogs, and as badly as we feel about Templeton, the way we see it is that it shouldn’t be an eye for an eye,” Sean McKearn’s sister, Lindsay McKearn, said as she acknowledged that Vick has a reputation for being aggressive toward other dogs. “I can’t stress enough how we badly we feel about what happened but we’re not going to stop defending these dogs like they deserve life.”
The McKearns’ father, Kevin McKearn, said no one was home when Vick jumped out an open window and mauled Templeton as she was being walked by her owner.
Templeton’s owner, Rebecca Cigal, of Niskayuna, said her teenage son is heartbroken.
Authorities say Tyson also was involved in the attack.
Kevin McKearn said courts labeled the dogs “dangerous” after they each bit other dogs in unrelated incidents. On Thursday, both were playful, with Tyson snoring on the couch before he was led away.
The fate of the animals now rests with Schenectady City Court.
Sean McKearn, 28, the dogs’ registered owner, faces two misdemeanor counts of harboring a dangerous dog.
He is scheduled to return Wednesday to City Court on those charges before a separate hearing to determine if the dogs will again be classified as dangerous.
Carl Falotico, the city attorney handling the case, said Thursday that any plea deal to resolve the case will require that the dogs be euthanized.
Visiting City Judge Stephen Swinton on Wednesday ordered the dogs to be surrendered after they were moved from the kennel where they had been placed.
The dogs were held at the city kennel before being moved to Milton Manor Pet Spa & Resort in Saratoga County at the request of the family. Lindsay McKearn removed them last week after, she said, her attorney, Glen Brownell, advised the family to get them.
She denied there was an agreement with the city that the dogs remain at the pet spa, but said she regretted taking the animals.
Tyson and Vick were kept at two different places in Saratoga County, she said. She and her father picked them up Wednesday and returned them home to Schenectady.
Lindsay McKearn described the city kennel as “disgusting,” saying the dogs are left to roll in their own feces, have no human interaction, cannot run around and have no air conditioning.
Kevin McKearn called the kennel a “bunker.”
City Councilman Vince Riggi said last week that he also has concerns about the kennel after receiving pictures that purport to show the kennel’s conditions and talking with a member of a local dog rescue group. He said he plans to raise the issue at the Aug. 18 committee meeting.
Assistant Schenectady Fire Chief Jack Falvo said Thursday the kennel on Anthony Street on the city’s North side is “spotless and well-maintained.”
He said the dogs are kept in a 3- by 14-foot pen, are given treats and toys, classical music is played to help keep them calm, and animal control officers monitor the kennel when their work shifts begin and end.
How to alert the public about dangerous dogs fueled a heated debate between Assemblyman Jim Tedisco and Mayor Gary McCarthy.
The city on Tuesday began posting information on its home page about current and pending encounters involving dangerous dogs in 2014.