100-Pound Dog Was Unmuzzled on Walk, Neighbor Testifies
Susan Kolb faces contempt charges for allegedly walking unmuzzled dogs despite court ruling.
A combative cross-examination that challenged Gary Kolb about walking his 100-pound dogs unmuzzled in addition to eyewitness testimony from a neighbor were the next turn in an ongoing dispute Thursday night in Jefferson Municipal Court.
Gary Kolb and his wife, Susan, were originally indicted on contempt of court charges after police found them walking their African Boerbel pet dogs unmuzzled, per court order, on Oct. 18, 2011. Earlier this week, a state Superior Court Judge dismissed the charge against Gary Kolb.
Gary and Susan Kolb have been battling since 2008 in various state courts to keep the two 100-pound dogs, Jumba, a male and Imani, a female, after the dogs allegedly knocked over a woman and her grandchild in 2008 and allegedly bit two people in 2009 while the couple lived in Jersey City. They were charged with contempt in Jersey City for walking the unmuzzled dogs.
The Kolbs moved to Jefferson in October 2011 after the Jersey City incidents. The Kolbs were ordered to keep the dogs muzzled and on a short leash while they were being walked in public. The dogs were taken away following the Jefferson incident, and Jumba died in January while living in a shelter.
The Kolbs are trying to regain possession of Imani, who is kenneled in Hackettstown.
Steven Post, a neighbor and a Little Falls police sergeant, testified that he was at a local bagel shop early that morning when he saw a Jefferson police car turn down a road that led to his neighborhood. Post said he sensed the police officer was responding to the Kolbs and their dogs.
When he arrived in his neighborhood, Post said, he pulled to the side of the road and saw Jefferson Cpl. Bryan Christie, the Kolbs and the dogs. Post said that he was told by Jefferson Township Council President Richard Yocum that the dogs were not to be in public unless muzzled and on a short leash. Post said he spoke briefly to Christie.
Post said he was close enough to the police car to hear the sounds of a conversation between the police officer and the Kolbs but not all of the actual words. He did say that he heard the phrases. “There are bear around” and “they are hard to get on.”
He testified he was unable to determine which of the Kolbs spoke the phrases.
The Kolb’s attorney Robert Dunn asked Post how he knew the Kolbs were walking the dogs, and Post replied that when he called Jefferson police to report the incident the officer who took the call mentioned that there had been other calls. Post also said two neighbors told him they also called police.
Gary Kolb testified that they walked the dogs between 5 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. when it was still dark so the presence of the dogs would not alarm neighbors.
He said they had moved in to the Jefferson home during the first week of October and had had installed a six-foot fence, an outside shelter for the dogs inside the fenced area and posted two “Beware of the dog” signs.
He said when they moved they had been escorted to the Jersey City line by Jersey City police and greeted at the Jefferson border by members of its police department.
On Oct. 18, Kolb testified, they were walking with the dogs. He walked Jumba, and his wife Susan walked Imani, when Jumba went into a wooded area along the street to relieve himself. When they came out, Kolb said, Jumba’s muzzle had slipped. They decided to walk toward Chamberlain Road where there was a street light and planned to remuzzle the dog at that point.
About that time Christie showed up in his patrol car, Kolb said.
Kolb said he showed the officer that the muzzle was in his hand and tried to explain that it had come off in the woods. He said that one reason he had not immediately replaced the muzzle on Jumba was that there had been reports of a bear in the neighborhood, one by a neighbor and another by the bus driver who brings their son home from school.
Kolb said that he was afraid that his dog would be injured if muzzled and there had been a bear in the neighborhood.
“These dogs are loyal, fearless and protective,” Kolb said.
In a combative cross-examination, municipal prosecutor James LaSala challenged Kolb on the details of the walk and his encounter with Christie.
LaSala focused on Kolb’s description of where his wife was standing during the incident, and challenged Kolb’s sometimes varied answers about where she stood. Kolb said that she had shown Imani’s muzzle to Christie by holding it up in her hand. The muzzle was not on the dog.
LaSala’s repeated questions and harsh tone elicited angry and emotional responses from Kolb, especially during a series of questions about four photographs Dunn presented to show that the dogs had been muzzled before the Oct. 18 walk.
LaSala questioned the digital date stamp on the photos, and challenged Kolb to show that he knew how to set up the camera.
Kolb said that he was not camera literate and did not know how to manipulate the date stamp feature of the camera.
LaSala also challenged Kolb on the precautions taken at their home to warn the public about the presence of the dogs, especially the wording on the sign, which by law is required to have a very specific warning about the presence of a dangerous dog.
The Jefferson hearing will resume at 7 p.m., March 14.
Dunn said Thursday that the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office told him it will appeal the ruling that dismissed the charges against Gary Kolb, or refile the contempt charge.