Outdoors in Maine: Dealing with dangerous dogs

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Let’s get one thing straight from the start: I love dogs. Sally, probably the last dog I will ever have, needed to be put down a few years back, after she was mauled by my neighbor’s unleashed Saint Bernard. I wrote about it at the time. It was a dreadful experience.

An aging English Setter and a great upland gun dog, Sally was on our morning walk with me and Diane when this bear-like dog attacked from out of nowhere. The big dog had Sally by the throat with every intention to kill. My desperate kicks to the big dog’s mid-section and a lot of loud swearing finally drove it off.

The following day, after Sally was euthanized and I had cooled off a bit, we met with the attack dog’s owner and local police. The dog’s owner admitted that this incident with her dog was not the first.

“What would you have me do?” the neighbor asked with a shrug.

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“Put the dog down,” I said. “It is a dangerous dog. What if it attacks and mauls a kid riding a bike on the camp road?”

That was the end of the conversation. The Ellsworth cop said that there wasn’t much he could do but encourage the neighbor to keep her dog on a leash. Little did I know at the time, and apparently the police officer didn’t know either, that there is a state law that requires the euthanization of dogs deemed dangerous.

This information all came to the fore recently in the controversial, high-profile case of the husky, Dakota, which had killed one lap dog and injured another. Deemed a dangerous dog, Dakota’s owner had been ordered by the court to put the dog down.

The case received notoriety when Maine Governor Paul LePage pardoned the dog, which in effect spared it from the vet’s needle. What in the world was the governor thinking?

The case gets more bizarre by the day. A district court judge overruled the governor and ordered that Dakota, a legally designated “dangerous dog,” be euthanized. Apparently the case is being appealed to the Maine Supreme Court, so the husky is spared — at least until the high court convenes in the fall.

Not surprisingly, a cursory public opinion poll conducted the other morning by WVOM talk show host, George Hale, indicated that a strong majority of listeners wanted Dakota to be spared. Another case of the contemporary American syndrome: animals before people. Too many of us think with our hearts instead of our heads.

Dakota is a problem canine. Of this there is no question. The dog has killed one dog and tried to kill another. It will not change. In time, it will attack somebody else’s dog, and, who knows, perhaps a child.

Cowboys had it right. Dogs are wonderful companions. But every once in a while a bad one comes along, and you just don’t tolerate the bad ones.

Those who do are not acting responsibly, whether the governor is involved or not. It is a sad day when Maine’s highest court must squander its time forcing people to take action that they should have taken in the first place.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide and host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors,” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. He has authored three books. Online purchase information is available at www.maineoutdoorpublications.com.

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