Two dogs from Winslow are at the center of an appeal scheduled for next month in Rumford, where the state’s highest court will be asked to consider the special role dogs play in the life of a family.

Their owner, Danielle Jones, 28, is asking the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, sitting as the Law Court, to overturn a euthanasia order issued by a District Court judge after a civil, nonjury trial at the Capital Judicial Center in Augusta. The dogs escaped from their fenced-in yard in 2016 and attacked a smaller dog, which later died at a veterinarian’s office.

Jones, through attorney Bonnie Martinolich, says the statute permitting forfeiture of the animals is criminal rather than civil, so there should have been a jury trial in which the state would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the dogs were dangerous.

“Pet dogs take on an added importance to families,” Martinolich said. “We are not discussing seizing and destroying someone’s car, television set or other inanimate object. The dangerous-dog statute requires that a family lose forever a beloved pet when only a minimal amount of evidence is provided. A family can never replace that dog. No two are the same.”

The case follows another high-profile dangerous-dog incident in central Maine that raised far-reaching legal questions. Dakota the husky, whose court-ordered death sentence had been in legal limbo after an appeal and a high-profile pardon from Maine’s governor, won a full reprieve in July from a euthanasia order stemming from deadly attacks in Waterville.

That case, which might have headed to the state supreme court if a compromise had not been reached, prompted questions about whether the governor’s power of pardon extended to animals and about the appropriate punishment for dogs deemed dangerous.

Legal experts say there are evolving precedents under which animals are being treated less like property and more like people.

In the Winslow case, Jones is asking that the euthanasia order be reversed. The dogs were ordered destroyed after Judge Eric Walker found Jones to have committed two civil violations for keeping dangerous dogs.

The state, through Assistant District Attorney Tracy DeVoll, maintains the judgment was proper and that the dogs should be euthanized for attacking a smaller dog being walked by owner Sharron Carey on Lucille Street on Aug. 30, 2016. The smaller dog, 10-month-old Fergie Rose, died of injuries shortly afterward.

DAMAGES SOUGHT

Last month, Carey filed a lawsuit in the same courthouse, seeking damages from Jones and her boyfriend, Brandon Ross, and from Danielle Doyon, the property owner, for the dog attack.

Jones’ two pit bulls, Bentley and Kole, had been ordered confined previously. After a two-day trial, Walker refused Jones’ request to give her dogs another chance.

Jones testified that she ran from the backyard through her house on Aug. 30 toward the sounds of screaming and barking in the front of the property. She saw Carey swinging, kicking and hitting Bentley and Kole on the head as they tugged and pulled at Fergie Rose, a Boston terrier.

Jones testified she got in the middle of the dogs and twice handed Fergie Rose back to Carey. The third time, Jones carried Fergie Rose to her own car before returning to get her dogs under control.

Two video surveillance cameras on Jones’ home captured images of Carey walking her dog, and Fergie Rose lunging toward the home, followed shortly afterward by Jones’ two pit bulls streaking across the lawn to reach them.

Walker said that rather than the “dog fight” described by Jones’ trial attorney, Charles Ferris, the case involved “an escape and a vicious attack on a much smaller dog where her owner was injured in an attempt to protect her dog.”

He found that Carey suffered serious bodily injury during the attack, and that Bentley and Kole were the same two dogs involved in a May 29, 2015 attack that injured a younger, smaller dog, during which Ross, a co-owner of Bentley and Kole, was bitten by one of his own dogs.

Walker ordered the two dogs euthanized within 30 days. Bentley and Kole remain at the Humane Society Waterville Area pending resolution of the case.

The Law Court schedules arguments at various high schools at the invitation of local legislators and this case will be heard Oct. 13 at Mountain Valley High School in Rumford.

INJURIES SUFFERED

Carey’s lawsuit against Jones, Ross and Doyon is pending in Kennebec County Superior Court.

Carey, through attorney Steven Blackwell, said she suffered injuries to her hands and left wrist when the two dogs dragged her to the ground while tearing Fergie Rose from her arms.

Carey seeks compensation for her injuries and damages as well as medical and veterinary expenses. The claim is brought under state statutes, one of which permits “reimbursement for damage done by animals.”

The lawsuit describes the May 29, 2015, incident, saying Bentley and Kole escaped from a different fenced-in enclosure at Jones’ and Ross’ residence, then on Halifax Street in Winslow, and attacked a dog named Gage.

It says that because the dog owners were aware the animals were dangerous, they “were negligent in that they failed to construct and maintain a secure fence that would confine Kole and Bentley” at 12 Lucille St.

In Doyon’s response to the lawsuit, filed by attorney Paul Douglass, she says she lacks information about the allegations and alternatively says responsibility for the incident belongs to Jones and Ross.

Attorney Walter McKee, representing Jones and Ross, denies the allegations in the lawsuit and says that Carey “was comparatively negligent” and that the complaint fails to state a claim for “strict liability.”

Betty Adams can be contacted at 621-5631 or at:

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