Fate of pardoned dog in limbo after court hearing delayed

Posted March 31, 2017, at 4:56 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The fate of a husky named Dakota, who killed a smaller dog in Winslow last year, remained undecided Friday after a status conference among the various parties and the District Court judge was delayed.

The new date was not available Friday afternoon.

Dakota remained Friday at the Humane Society Waterville Area animal shelter, director Lisa Smith said. It was unclear whether the canine would be eligible for bail as human detainees are or who would be responsible for the cost of its care at the shelter.

“Can any dog make a mistake? Absolutely,” Smith said Friday. “No one wants a vicious dog at large in the community. The responsibility lies with the dog’s original owner. ”

Gov. Paul LePage pushed the 4-year-old canine into the national spotlight Thursday when he issued a pardon to prevent her from being euthanized as District Court Judge Valerie Stanfill had ordered on March 21.

“I have reviewed the facts of this case and I believe the dog ought to be provided a full and free pardon,” the governor said Thursday in a press release.

LePage said he based his decision on information provided by Smith that described the dog as “model resident, extremely friendly, social with other dogs and easy for staff to handle.”

How the governor’s action will impact the case remained unclear Friday but the Maine Supreme Judicial Court may have to decide the dog’s fate as it did a bullmastiff’s in 1984. Tucker’s euthanasia order was upheld by the state’s high court but the dog was kidnapped and saved by animal advocates two days before he was to die. Tucker had been sentenced to death after he killed a neighbor’s poodle in 1982.

Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney, who is handling the case, said Thursday that she is researching LePage’s authority to pardon a dog. The Maine Constitution gives chief executives wide latitude to “grant reprieves, commutations and pardons” and species isn’t specified, she said.

Efforts on Friday to reach Maloney were unsuccessful.

Information about the owners of the dog that was killed have not been made public. Smith said Friday that she did not know who they were.

“My heart goes out to the people who lost their dog,” she said. “I don’t want any of this to take away from their loss. [The original owner] was irresponsible. I feel very badly for them and am trying to figure out how to reach out to them.”

Dakota and her original owner, Matthew Perry of Winslow, came to the attention of law enforcement in 2016 when the dog got loose and killed a smaller dog owned by a neighbor, according to earlier media reports.

The town of Winslow last year deemed Dakota “a dangerous dog” and, in the civil case against Perry, Judge Stanfill ordered him to keep her confined behind a fence at least 6-feet high and to keep the dog on a short leash and muzzled when being walked.

In early February, Perry gave the dog away to a person who lived in another town, who allowed the dog to run at large, Smith said. Dakota and another dog returned to Perry’s neighborhood and “one of those two dogs was aggressive toward smaller dogs on the same property where the original incident occurred, but no damage took place,” Smith said in a letter to Maloney asking that Dakota’s life be spared dated March 24.

On Feb. 8, Dakota was picked up as a stray dog and taken to the humane society in Waterville and adopted March 18 by Linda Janeski of Winslow, three days before Stanfill issued the kill order. Smith said the shelter was told on Feb. 18 that Dakota could be adopted as long as the new owner agreed to comply with the court order, which Janeski did.

Janeski was chosen because she had been around Dakota when she was a puppy, Smith said. Janeski’s daughter was in a relationship with Perry when he got the dog.

When they broke up, Perry kept the dog, Janeski told the Waterville Morning Sentinel. She alleged that Perry locked the dog in the basement to kill rats. Dakota would act aggressively toward the neighbor’s smaller dog when it would crawl under the fence, the new owner said

Janeski has hired a Portland law firm to advocate for Dakota.

“This is about responsible dog ownership and not about a dog that is a danger to the community,” attorney Bonnie Martinolich said Friday.

BDN writers Christopher Cousins and Michael Shepherd contributed to this report.

 

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