Law & Justice

Jury Finds Pit Bull Owner Responsible, Landlord Negligent in 2015 Attack on South Plainfield Woman, Dog at Spring Lake Park

Yogi, on a walk to the park with his owner Katie Stilo, on May 3, 2015, just minutes prior to the attack. Credits: Katie Stilo
Katie Stilo and her dog, Yogi. Credits: Katie Stilo

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ –  A jury in Middlesex County Court earlier this month ruled in favor of the South Plainfield resident attacked by a dog at Spring Lake Park nearly three years ago. According to plaintiff Katie Stilo, both the property owner and the owner of the dog were found to be negligent in the 2015 attack on her and her dog.

On the afternoon of May 3, 2015, Katie Stilo, looking to take advantage of the nice weather and get some exercise, left their home off South Plainfield Avenue and headed to Spring Lake Park. Crossing Maple Avenue, Stilo and her dog Yogi, a 25-pound Shiba Inu, entered the county park near the PAL, but they didn't make it very far before being attacked by a female pit-bull-boxer mix that broke through the fence of an adjacent property.

According to Stilo, now 24, while still on the pedestrian path directly next to the park’s Maple Avenue entrance sign, she heard a woman to her right scream ‘no.’ “I looked up and saw a large dog was charging at us. By the time I could react, the dog was already attacking Yogi,” said Stilo. “In self-defense, because he couldn't do anything, I tried to push the pit-bull to the ground and then it came after me, tackled me to the ground, and bit me in the neck.”

Sign Up for E-News

Yogi, she said, ran off and into traffic onto Maple Avenue. Managing to break free of the aggressive canine, Stilo then went after her dog.

“The pit-bull chased us for about a block to Joan Street and I was in the middle of Maple Avenue bleeding from the neck, my dog nowhere to be found,” said Stilo, adding that with the help of a stranger – whose name she never knew – Yogi was found but he, too, was injured, his back left leg bitten and bleeding.

Stilo was taken by ambulance to JFK Medical Center where she underwent treatment for bite marks and injuries to her hands, legs and throat, close to her carotid artery. In addition to rabies and tetanus shots, she also underwent a cat-scan and received a number of stitches in her neck.

Yogi also needed immediate medical condition and was taken to Plainfield Animal Hospital. “He also received multiple shots and stitches to his back left leg because the muscle was nearly ripped off,” said Stilo.

About a week after the incident, Stilo reattained a lawyer and, over the weeks and months that followed, she went to countless doctors, including a therapist to help deal with anxiety and nightmares. She also ended up having back surgery due to an injury associated with the attack and lost over six months of work.

“It was a very treacherous two and a half years,” she said.

On a local level, she appeared in South Plainfield court at a vicious dog hearing but the judge ruled the dog was not dangerous. “The dog had previously attacked another dog prior to me being attacked and shortly after my incident it broke through and jumped out a window of the home and attacked a man’s dog. The man was pushing his young child in a stroller at the time of this attack,” said Stilo, telling TAPinto South Plainfield that she also wrote letters to the mayor, council, and chief of police. “If the town had properly handled the situation and took it in a serious manner that attack could have been prevented. It seemed the town didn't take this seriously.”

In June 2015, Stilo moved forward with a lawsuit against the landlord and the tenant/dog owner and, on Jan. 9, a jury in New Brunswick ruled in her favor. In the judgment, the court found the owner of the dog 80-percent responsible in the attack and the landlord/homeowner 20-percent negligent (for failing to maintain the property).

According to Stilo, she has no idea whether or not the dog still resides at the premise and that the landlord had testified in the past that he did not know whether or not a dog or any other pets were at his property. On the day the judgment was rendered neither the dog owner nor the property owner showed up in court the day of the verdict; the only legal representative for the defendant, she said, was the attorney representing the landlord’s insurance company.

“The compensation was not at all fair based on the suffering me, Yogi and my family have gone through along with countless bills, lost wages, etc.” said Stilo, adding that she will have to try to collect whatever is available from the tenant and go through the homeowner’s insurance for the rest.

All medical and emotional issues aside, Stilo said all she ever wanted – and is still waiting for – is an apology. “I just wanted them to apologize and be up front and own up to responsibility…and I never got that,” she said.

Stilo continued, “Imagine how you would feel. It was horrible. I was just trying to walk my dog in the park and I almost bled out and died from it.”

TAPinto South Plainfield is South Plainfield’s only free daily paper. Sign up to get all the news as it happens at and follow us on Facebook at and on Twitter at @SoplainfieldTAP.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

South Plainfield

The Athlete of the Week Samantha Pullen Girls’ Spring Track

The South Plainfield High School Girls’ track team is off to another great start in the 2018 season.  Their record currently stands at 3-0. This past week, the Lady Tigers defeated divisional rivals Metuchen and Middlesex by the scores of 80-56 and 75-56.  They then went on to dominate Bishop Ahr by a score of 112-24.  Much of the Lady Tigers success has been due to the ...

The Athlete of the Week Tatianna Sutor Girls’ Lacrosse

The South Plainfield High School Girls’ Lacrosse team is off to a fantastic start to their 2018 season with a record of 2-0. This past week, the Lady Tigers crushed division rival Bishop Ahr by the score of 14-2, and then went on to beat Boonton 6-3.  A huge part of the success for South Plainfield has been due in a large part to the contributions of senior goalie Tatianna ...


Victor Kochmann, 92, passed away on Wednesday, March 21, 2018 surrounded by his loving family in ...
Read more

Letters to the Editor

Letter Welcoming Mike Zushma to Politics

April 19, 2018

Dear Editor, 

I'd like to welcome Mike Zushma to the world of politics and congratulate him on being selected as the town's Democratic Chairman.


I've served as Republican chair since 2009, and I've always enjoyed spending my time helping good people get elected to office.  In South Plainfield, it's never about party:  People work together and try ...

Natalie Stilo Signs with Drew University Golf Team

April 20, 2018

Natalie Stilo, Senior at Bishop George Ahr High School, has signed with Drew University's golf team. Currently, Natalie is on Bishop Ahr's golf team. Golf became her passion after her 10 year career in gymnastics ended. She has been working on her golf game and is excited to have the opportunity to play for Drew. She will attend Drew University in the Fall, majoring in Molecular Biology ...

Community Happenings

South Plainfield High School Hall Of Fame Is Seeking Nominees

April 19, 2018

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - The South Plainfield High School Hall of Fame Committee is again holding their search for candidates for induction into the SPHS Hall of Fame.  The Hall of Fame was established at South Plainfield High School to recognize outstanding graduates as leaders in their fields who could serve as role models for current and future students.

Candidates will be evaluated on ...

Kennedy School Welcomes Author Lisa Mullarkey

April 19, 2018

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Teacher and children’s author Lisa Mullarkey stopped by John F. Kennedy Elementary School on April 18. 

“This year’s guest author was very well received by our students and staff. Mrs. Mullarkey spent the day motivating our students to be future writers," said Kennedy Principal Kevin Hajduk. "It was a privilege for our students at ...

Holy Savior Academy to Hold Open House on April 24

April 18, 2018

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Holy Savior Academy, an AdvancedED accredited Middlebrook Deanery Catholic School located in South Plainfield, will hold an open house the evening of Tuesday, April 24.At this time, prospective students and their families in pre-K3 through 8th grade will have the opportunity to tour the school, meet teachers and register. 

“Holy Savior ...

Elks Lodge #2298 Hosted Princess Breakfast

April 19, 2018

The South Plainfield Elks Lodge #2298 Youth Activities Committee recently hosted a Princess breakfast, in conjunction with the South Plainfield Summer Drama Workshop.   On the menu we featured only the BEST breakfast in town.  Our lil princesses were able to come down to have their pictures taken with their favorite Disney characters. 

The South Plainfield Elks Lodge #2298 ...

Part Time Position in Municipal Court

The South Plainfield Borough is seeking to hire a part time person with strong customer service skills to perform detailed Municipal Court clerical work.

Responsibilities include but are not limited to:

Answering telephone and walk in inquiries, data entry, maintaining files and records for accuracy, processing payments, related duties as required.

Successful candidates should process ...

Upcoming Events


Sat, April 28, 9:00 AM

South Plainfield

Spring Wellness Health Fair - Mayor's Wellness


Sat, April 28, 9:00 AM

South Plainfield

South Plainfield's Annual Health and Fitness Fair


Sat, April 28, 7:00 PM

South Plainfield

A Tribute to our Veterans - Jim Barone


Sun, April 29, 2:00 PM

South Plainfield

Autism Awareness Event on April 29th


Sat, May 5, 9:00 AM


Color Me Run to End Domestic Violence


Retro Review: Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo

Retro Review: Johnny Got His Gun by Dalton Trumbo (Citadel Press, 1970)


How does a reviewer do justice to a book called “the great American novel”? I first read Johnny Got His Gun during the Viet Nam war, when young people, nationwide, were protesting fighting in a war that was a senseless waste of life; a war in which the United States had no business participating.


Your library is a hub of education and entertainment that is available to you not just when the library is open, but at all hours, thanks to our great online resources.  

If you want to brush up on your computer skills, or learn something new, try Learning Express.  You can access it through the library’s website. Once you’ve registered (you’ll need ...

Press Releases

High School, College Students Sought For County Youth Conservation Corps

April 23, 2018

MIDDLESEX COUNTY, NJ - Middlesex County is looking for high school and college students who want to improve and protect our environment and don’t mind lifting, bending, and getting dirt under their fingernails.

Applications are now being accepted for the Middlesex County Youth Conservation Corps, whose mission is to protect and preserve the more than 8,000 acres of Open Space ...