We’re left again to trust Drown and his dogs

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Fines and judgments have failed to persuade Peter Drown, who owns multiple Rottweilers and American Staffordshire (pit bull) terriers, to better control his brood. His record of bad animal behavior and insistence against acknowledging liability shows a disconnect with reality.

Normal dogs don’t haul off and slaughter livestock, as Drown’s dogs did. They don’t paralyze the neighborhood with fear, as Drown’s dogs still do. They don’t embroil a community in controversy and lead to legislation ordering further controls on so-called dangerous dogs. Drown’s dogs did this, too.

Despite the attention on his story, however, the state’s ability to control Drown and his dogs – or anyone else possessing such questionable animals – remains weak.

On Monday, after Drown admitted to letting his dogs loose and killing livestock, a separate charge of keeping a dangerous dog was dropped, letting him escape new legislation his case inspired.

Sen. John Nutting, D-Leeds, had stewarded LD 380, An Act to Protect the Public from Dangerous Dogs, under the governor’s pen for signature this year. Owners of goats killed by Drown’s dogs and the prosecutor in Drown’s case had testified for the bill.

Now dangerous dog owners can be compelled to build a 6-foot locked enclosure for their dogs, have their dog tagged as dangerous, or have its identity recorded with local animal control. Unless the dog owner is Peter Drown of Livermore, as without the “dangerous dog” conviction, he’s exempt from these standards.

“It should have applied to [Drown],” said Nutting. “I was very, very disappointed to read about the plea bargain….it should have never been entered.”

On Monday, Drown also promised to acquire a breeding kennel license, something else the state cannot stop, as only criminal convictions for animal crimes, or civil animal cruelty, prohibit a person from holding a license, according to the Maine Animal Welfare Office.

So much for outrage. Drown’s dogs are no more controlled today than nine months ago. Neighbors around his Goding Road residence remain petrified of his animals – some are eager to move – despite Drown’s erecting of a fence, and his description of his remaining dogs as “lovable.”

It doesn’t change this fact: a law was passed to allay the public from such fears, yet it don’t apply here. “The plea bargain undid this whole piece of legislation,” says Nutting. “It was a dead-to-rights case.”

He’s right. It’s a travesty.

All the state has done now is exact four more civil judgments and another $1,200 from him, penalties which have had little impact in the past. It’s only a matter of time before his dogs again become a serious issue, or threat, in Livermore.

But in lieu of rules, we must trust Drown to do the right thing.

Unfortunately, this was the problem in the first place.

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