Vet says she warned Lapeer Co. couple dogs blamed in mauling were aggressive

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Lapeer — A Metamora couple whose dogs chased down and killed a Livonia jogger in July were warned weeks earlier by a veterinarian the canines were dangerous and should be seen by an animal behaviorist.

Sebastian Quagliata, 45, and Valbona Lucaj, 44, are both charged with second-degree murder in the July 23 death of Craig Sytsma, 46, who was mauled by the couple’s two Cane Corsos near their home.

“I told them I felt the dogs were very aggressive and may be very dangerous ... ,” Dr. Sherrey Wallace testified during the couple’s examination in Lapeer District Court on Friday.

On a scale of one to 10 for aggressive behavior, Wallace estimated the dogs at “9” and “9.5.”

Wallace said she had warned Quagliata and Lucaj of the aggressive behavior of 91-pound Princess and 108-pound Tony, after the animals tried to bite her during separate routine examinations in April, just weeks before the fatal attack.

“(Princess) lunged at staff members when they tried to get her on a scale (to weigh her),” Wallace said. “And she tried to bite me.”

Wallace said the two dogs — who have since been destroyed under court order — had to be restrained by Lucaj and the couple’s two children. Wallace said when she asked Lucaj if there had been any aggressive problems at home, Lucaj told her “no” — although police said there are prior biting incidents on record.

Wallace — who marked “DWB!!” for “Dogs Will Bite” on her office files as a warning to co-workers — said that in a later visit the dogs tried to bite her even when they were muzzled.

The couple are jailed in lieu of $500,000 bond each. Quagliata’s attorney, Jason Malkiewicz, argued for bond reduction Friday, causing Lapeer assistant prosecutor Michael Hodges to object to Judge Laura Barnard that they might still pose a flight risk.

“They knew full well of the dogs’ behavior and chose to do nothing,” Hodges said.

Barnard agreed she still had concerns after hearing only one witness, Wallace, testify.

The couple, who exchanged tearful looks with their children and others in the courtroom were remanded to the Lapeer County Jail pending continuation of the exam Aug. 29 to determine if they should go to trial.

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