ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- The attorney for the family of a local dog that has been at the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA for years says the animal has been euthanized.

Attorney Elliott Harding tweeted on Friday that Niko the dog was euthanized overnight by representatives from Albemarle County.

This would be the end of a long legal battle dating back to 2015 when Niko was accused of killing a neighbor’s cat.

Earlier this spring, an appeals court ruled that Niko could be “disposed of,” which Harding says means he could have been placed in a different shelter or rescue for the rest of his life.

Albemarle County officials released this statement:

On Thursday, July 14, Albemarle County implemented the Albemarle County Circuit Court’s order to dispose of the dog, Niko, pursuant to Virginia Code § 3.2-6562.

Niko has been in the custody of Albemarle County, impounded at the local SPCA, since December 2014, after two local Courts declared Niko to be a Dangerous Dog under Virginia Code § 3.2-6540.1 and ordered the dog to be euthanized, as a result of the following incidents:

  • In 2013, Niko injured a dog
  • In 2014, Niko injured a second dog and was declared to be a “dangerous dog” by the Albemarle General District Court
  • In 2014, Niko killed a neighbor’s cat

In 2016, while impounded at the local SPCA, Niko escaped his handler and injured a third dog.

After a series of appeals, the Virginia Court of Appeals affirmed the Circuit Court’s ruling. Albemarle County received the final order to dispose of Niko on June 10, 2022.

And the CASPCA released this statement:

Niko was a canine who had been in the care of the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA (SPCA) since late 2014 after being declared a “dangerous dog.” After many years of litigation by his owners, the Albemarle County Circuit Court recently ordered that Niko be disposed of pursuant to Virginia Code § 3.2-6562, which provides limited options for disposal of a companion animal, either delivering the dog to a new owner or euthanasia, and gives the animal control officer the ultimate decision-making power.  

Following the entry of the Court’s Order, Albemarle County proposed two options: (1) the SPCA house Niko permanently; or (2) Niko be euthanized. The SPCA gave serious consideration to the option of housing Niko permanently, particularly since he was doing well in the SPCA’s care, but  ultimately determined that this option was not permitted under Virginia law. By law, the SPCA is required to find permanent adoptive homes for the animals it shelters and  is not permitted to own or house the animals permanently with no option for later adoption. Despite repeated requests, the SPCA was not allowed to house Niko temporarily while it sought a permanent  home for Niko, either in a private home or sanctuary.

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.   

Niko was in the care of the SPCA in its role as the public animal shelter for Albemarle County for more than seven years while the court cases were ongoing.  During that time, all of Niko’s veterinary needs were met and he was given a lot of care and attention by SPCA staff. He lived as comfortable a life as could be provided. Niko will be greatly missed by staff and volunteers at the SPCA.  

“While the SPCA can sadly no longer improve the life of Niko, the work to better the lives of animals in Albemarle County, City of Charlottesville, and beyond must continue,” said Angie Gunter, Chief Executive Officer of the SPCA. “We are dedicated to providing the best quality of life for the animals in our care with the intent to place them in healthy and caring homes.”

This is a developing story.