A 4-year-old Husky at the center of a legal dispute since being pardoned by Gov. Paul LePage last month was temporarily spared euthanization by a last-minute appeal.
Dakota had been taken to a veterinary office to be put down Tuesday after Waterville District Court Judge Valerie Stanfill denied a request to stop a euthanization order, but Matthew Perry, the defendant in the case and Dakota’s past owner, filed an appeal that eventually could send the case to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, the state’s highest court.
Once Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney received word of the appeal, she contacted law enforcement officers to prevent the dog from being euthanized. She said Dakota remains at the Humane Society Waterville Area shelter.
Perry, who does not have an attorney, filed the appeal Tuesday on his own behalf in Augusta District Court. The appeal claims that it was wrong of the court to order on March 21 that Dakota be euthanized, and that it was wrong to keep the order in place despite the pardon Dakota received from LePage on March 30.
Dakota was declared a dangerous dog in February 2016 after getting loose in Winslow and killing Zoe, a smaller dog. Perry was ordered to keep Dakota confined, but she got loose again this January and went back to the same house, attacking the residents’ new dog, Bruce Wayne, and biting his throat, Maloney said.
Animal Control Officer Chris Martinez, who works in the Waterville and Winslow area and handled Dakota’s case, declined to comment on the case.
Dakota was found later as a stray and taken to the Humane Society, which said she did well on aggression tests and was a “model resident.” She was given through adoption to Linda Janeski, who was unaware of the March 21 court date that decided Dakota’s fate.
A Humane Society board member sent Dakota’s story to LePage, who granted the dog a “full and free pardon,” according to a March 30 statement from his office.
Maloney said Tuesday that LePage’s pardon is “irrelevant.” However, legal experts told the Morning Sentinel that the Maine Constitution gives LePage broad power for pardons, and that this reflects the evolution of animal laws.
Janeski’s attorney, Bonnie Martinolich, believes the governor’s pardon will play a large role in the case.
“The governor wants to help save Dakota. I believe that the governor’s pardon rights under the Maine Constitution are very broad,” she said. “And I believe that that is going to be a very contested issue, but I also believe that the governor’s pardon will be a key in helping us save Dakota.”
When asked if she thinks the court would refuse to hear the appeal, Martinolich said she doesn’t think it will.
“We are all just stunned that a statute in Maine would be interpreted to mean that you don’t have due process of law in a case where the outcome is irreversible,” she said, adding that she is “very optimistic” about the case.
Martinolich expects to file an appeal on behalf of Janeski by Thursday.
Lisa Smith, director of the Humane Society, said Dakota will remain at the shelter as they wait for the legal process to play out.
“We’re trying to work with law enforcement, the judges, the lawyers, the public and the animal welfare advocates, and we’re right in the middle,” she said, adding later, “I think this is totally unprecedented.”
Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239