7-year court fight in Virginia ends with Niko the dog’s death

This past week, Niko, a Staffordshire terrier, was taken from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Albemarle County, Virginia, and euthanized.

Niko was the subject of the Facebook group Save NIKO, and the subject of court battles for the last seven years.

In August 2015, Niko’s owner, Toni Sue Stacey, was convicted in Albemarle County Circuit Court for owning a dangerous dog after Niko killed a neighborhood cat.

The judge sentenced Stacey to 90 days in jail, but suspended all of it, with the conditions that Stacey be on good behavior, and that Niko would be euthanized.

Niko had been condemned to be euthanized, but seven years later, he’s still alive and living at a no-kill shelter. (Courtesy Toni Sue Stacey)

Since then, the owner has been advocating for other options. Her attorney Elliot Harding told WINA radio Charlottesville that they identified several other options.

“He could have been given to a sanctuary; he could have been given to an individual; he could have been put into behavioral rehabilitation aspects so we would have less dog aggression,” Harding said, adding that at the end of the day, the county did not want to consider the other options.

The SPCA did not support the decision to euthanize and issued the following statement:

“Unfortunately, the decision was made by Albemarle County to euthanize Niko. On Thursday, July 14, Niko was taken from the SPCA to another location and euthanized. The SPCA opposed the decision to euthanize Niko, played no role in that decision, and did not participate in the euthanasia itself.”

The society said that it considered housing Niko permanently, since he was doing well in its care, but it was determined that under Virginia law, the SPCA is required to find permanent homes for the animal and not permitted to own or house animals permanently. The SPCA cared for Niko for more than seven years while the court cases were ongoing.

Harding said that a facility in New York that deals with dangerous dogs turned Niko away because he was not dangerous enough. “He’s just a regular dog,” Harding said the facility told him.



Albemarle County issued a statement listing the altercations Nico had with other animals, in addition to killing a cat in 2014. Niko was accused of injuring a dog in 2013. One year later, Niko was declared a “dangerous dog” by the Albemarle General District Court after injuring a second dog. Lastly in 2016, while impounded at the SPCA, Niko escaped and hurt a third dog.

Harding said it was the first he has heard of the 2013 attack. He said he spoke with Stacy about it and said “she has no idea where that’s coming from.”

Despite what Harding said was late notice about the county’s decision to euthanize Niko, his client was able to say goodbye to the dog.

“She was able to rush over there and have some last moments with him,” Harding said.

WTOP’s Abigail Constantino contributed to this report. 

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