AUGUSTA, Maine — Dakota, the husky facing a death sentence who was pardoned last month by Gov. Paul LePage, may have a new advocate at Tuesday’s hearing in Waterville District Court.
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.
In a letter to Judge Valerie Stanfill dated Friday, Assistant Attorney General Mark A. Randlett, representing the department, said that the dangerous dog statute is meant “to protect the public by deterring owners of dangerous dogs from letting them loose. It is not intended as a punishment for a dog, in this case, Dakota.”
The letter also said that Dakota is less of a public safety risk now, citing her new owner and the behavioral testing conducted at the Humane Society of Waterville Area, where the dog is being held.
Stanfill on Tuesday will hear arguments over a motion to set aside the dog’s death sentence.
Efforts Monday to determine whether Stanfill would allow representatives of the animal welfare program to address the court were unsuccessful.
No matter what decision the judge makes Tuesday, the case most likely will end up before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court because of LePage’s pardon.
The case marks the highest profile legal dispute over the euthanization of a dog since 1984, when the state’s high court upheld Tucker the bullmastiff’s death sentence after it killed a neighbor’s poodle in 1982. The dog was kidnapped and saved by animal advocates two days before he was to die.
The town of Winslow last year deemed Dakota “a dangerous dog” after she killed a smaller dog in May 2016. Stanfill last fall ordered the dog’s former owner, Matthew Perry of Waterville, to confine Dakota behind a fence at least 6 feet high and to keep her on a short leash and muzzled on walks.
Perry violated that order in February when Dakota got loose and attacked the new dog the victim had bought to replace the pug Dakota killed last year, according to Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney. Because that was the second time Dakota had attacked a small dog owned by the same family, the prosecutor asked that the dog be euthanized.
On March 21, Perry agreed that the dog should be put down. Unbeknownst to the court, Dakota was adopted from the Waterville shelter three days earlier. The new owner, Linda Janeski of Winslow, agreed to abide by the original court order.
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 they 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.