Thursday, March 18, 2004

Driver guilty of dog distractions

Man says he won't change behavior

By Perry Schaible
Enquirer Contributor

Michael Cunningham got a ticket from a Middletown police officer for obstruction of view after leaving Smith Park with his dogs, Smokie (left) and Peanut, in the front seat of his truck.
Enquirer file
MIDDLETOWN - The man who fought a traffic ticket issued by police who said his view was obstructed while driving with his two Yorkshire terriers was found guilty Wednesday.

Municipal Judge Mark Wall said that, although the animals might not have obstructed Michael Cunningham's view, they did serve as a distraction.

Wall suspended a $30 fine, but Cunningham was ordered to pay $60 in court costs.

"I don't agree with it," Cunningham said after the ruling. "These dogs aren't big enough to obstruct anybody's view."

Cunningham was issued a traffic ticket by a Middletown police officer on Feb. 23 while leaving Smith Park. The officer said the dogs - neither of which stands more than 10 inches tall - were a hazard because they were riding in his lap.

He appeared before Wall on March 3 to plead not guilty because, he says, he did nothing wrong.

"These dogs are not as high as the steering wheel when they're sitting on my lap," Cunningham said at the time.

He has since received support from other dog lovers.

"I don't think it was fair," said Bonnie Slaton, a Middletown resident who often travels with her miniature Dachshund, "as long as he maintained his vehicle in an orderly fashion."

Despite the court ruling, Cunningham said he won't change the way he travels with his pets.

"These dogs are like my kids and I'm not going to put them in danger," Cunningham said.


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