A state agency says it is now getting involved in the case of Dakota the dog, who was pardoned by Gov. Paul LePage on March 30 after the Winslow canine had been ordered euthanized for attacking another dog.
The Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry and its Animal Welfare Program said in a news release Monday that agency officials are offering to assist the Maine District Court in Waterville for the case of the State of Maine v. Matthew D. Perry, Dakota’s previous owner.
Perry had previously been scheduled for a hearing Tuesday at 1 p.m. at Waterville District Court regarding the dog’s fate.
A letter from the Animal Welfare Program to the judge in the case, Valerie Stanfill, said that the agency is interested in the case because of its “broad public interest” and the “possible implications” it could have on animal welfare laws.
When LePage issued a “pardon” of Dakota late last month, it wasn’t clear whether the governor’s action carried legal weight or was symbolic. Experts interviewed by the Morning Sentinel said the governor’s unusual action reflected evolving legal precedence under which animals are treated less like property and more like people.
The state department said it wants to ensure that the current owners of Dakota receive due process and that the original owner is held responsible for possible maltreatment of Dakota. In the letter, the agency also said that the dangerous dog statute is not meant to punish the dog but rather to deter the owners from letting dogs run loose, and that Dakota is less of a risk to the public given her response to a behavioral test conducted by the Humane Society Waterville Area.
Although the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry is “not a party to the lawsuit, it is seeking to express its strong interest in the matter and offer assistance to the Court prior to the rendering of a final disposition,” according to the news release said.
Dakota, a 4-year-old Husky, was declared a dangerous dog in February 2016 when she got loose in Winslow and killed a smaller dog, according to Winslow Animal Control Officer Chris Martinez.
Perry, her owner at the time, was ordered to keep her confined or on a short leash. However, Dakota got loose again in January and went back to the same house, where she attacked the previous victims’ new dog.
Later on, she was taken to the Waterville animal shelter as a stray, where the staff conducted behavioral tests and watched her interact with other dogs. According to the shelter’s director, Lisa Smith, Dakota was a “model resident” at the shelter.
Smith wrote a letter on Dakota’s behalf to Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney. After she was ordered euthanized, a member of the board of directors sent a copy to the governor, who later pardoned Dakota. It’s unclear how much legal clout the governor’s pardon holds for the dog.
Dakota was adopted out to the mother of Perry’s ex-girlfriend, Linda Janeski, of Winslow. Janeski has said she was unaware of Dakota’s second offense or the scheduled court date.
Dakota is staying at the humane society shelter as the case is contested.
Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239