POLL QUESTION

Judge refuses to spare life of Dakota, dog pardoned by LePage

Posted April 11, 2017, at 2:03 p.m.
Last modified April 12, 2017, at 9:48 a.m.

Poll Question

AUGUSTA, Maine — A District Court judge refused Tuesday to spare the life of Dakota, the husky who was thrust onto the national stage after she was pardoned last month by Gov. Paul LePage.

At the 30-minute hearing in Waterville District Court, Judge Valerie Stanfill found that Maine law requires that a dog must be put down after it is declared a dangerous dog and it attacks again.

“The statute says that the dog shall be euthanized,” Stanfill said.

Dakota’s owner now has 48 hours to have the dog euthanized, unless advocates for the pet can convince Stanfill to issue a stay on the kill order so they can pursue an appeal.

Bonnie Martinolich of Portland, an attorney for Dakota’s new owner, Linda Janeski of Winslow, told the judge Tuesday she would be filing a motion to stay Dakota’s execution while an appeal to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court is pending.

“Justice was not done today,” she told reporters afterward.

Stanfill last month ordered that Dakota be euthanized after it attacked a small dog in February for the second time in less than a year. The first dog, a 12-pound shih tzu terrier, named Zoe was attacked and killed in May, according to the Kennebec County district attorney’s office. The second dog — a pug named Bruce Wayne — was bitten on the neck, but not harmed.

Due to a miscommunication between the Kennebec County District Attorney’s Office and the Humane Society Waterville Area, where Dakota was being held, the dog was adopted on March 18, three days before Stanfill issued the kill order.

Janeski’s attorneys filed a motion last month asking that the judge reverse her order that the dog be euthanized by March 23. Stanfill stayed that order.

They argued that employees at the shelter had found the dog was not dangerous and Janeski had agreed to abide by the original court order issued last year that said the dog should be confined behind a 6-foot-tall fence, and be on a short leash and wear a muzzle when being walked.

Matthew Perry, who owned the dog during the attacks, last month agreed Dakota should be euthanized and agreed to pay to have the procedure done. But on Tuesday, he joined Janeski’s attorney in asking that the kill order be vacated.

Perry, who previously dated Janeski’s daughter, admitted last month to two civil violations in the case: keeping a dangerous dog and violating a court order to keep Dakota enclosed.

“I’ll see what I need to do to to make sure she doesn’t go down,” Perry told reporters Tuesday.

The owner of the dogs that were attacked attended the hearing but did not address the judge.

“This has been very emotional for us,” said the victim, who has asked not to be identified.

LePage pushed the 4-year-old canine into the national spotlight on March 30 when he issued the pardon, calling the dog a “model resident, extremely friendly, social with other dogs and easy for staff to handle.”

When asked about the pardon during the proceedings, Stanfill said that it was it not something she was considering. It was unclear whether she had not received a copy of the pardon or if she believed it had no bearing on her decision.

LePage “will read the ruling and determine next steps,” spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said.

Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney argued in a motion filed last week that the governor does not have the authority to pardon Dakota, since the dog was never convicted of a crime. And even if he did have the power, he did not follow the procedures required to issue one, Maloney said.

“The governor has failed to comply with nearly all of the requirements of the statute,” she said.

How the governor’s action may impact the case going forward was still unclear Tuesday. The Maine Supreme Judicial Court ultimately may have to decide the dog’s fate as it did Tucker the bull mastiff’s in 1984. That 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.

The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry’s animal welfare program on Monday came to the defense of the dog, saying she is now less dangerous, and the order calling for her euthanization should be set aside.

A representative from the department attended Tuesday’s hearing but did not address the court.

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CORRECTION:

A previous version of this story misreported the breeds of the dogs who were attacked. The dog that was killed was a shih tzu terrier. The dog that was attacked but not injured was a pug. Incorrect information was provided to the Bangor Daily News.

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