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 sentenced to death 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 with the case of the State of Maine v. Matthew D. Perry, Dakota’s previous owner.

A hearing for the case is scheduled for at 1 p.m. Tuesday at Waterville District Court. Linda Janeski, of Winslow, the current owner of the dog, is asking the court to withdraw its decision ordering Dakota to be euthanized.

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 state animal welfare laws.

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.

While the agency is always involved in animal welfare matters through the district attorney’s office, department spokesman John Bott said it decided to offer more hands-on assistance due to the “broader principles at play,” which were outlined in its letter.

“We have an interest in assuring that animal owners are afforded due process,” Bott said in an interview Monday. “The statutes are intended as punishment for owners. We don’t want animals to suffer due to owner neglect.”

Bott emphasized that the agency does not have “an official role” in the case but will offer advice. One example could be information on the reliability of the SAFER test used by the Humane Society to determine whether Dakota was aggressive, he said.

“We’re not a direct party in this,” Bott said. “We just want to ensure that some of these larger issues that could come up and could affect all animal owners will be considered.”

The agency decided to “make (its) interest known” after LePage brought the case to prominent attention by pardoning the dog.

“Every dog has his day and hopefully Dakota’s day is tomorrow,” Bott said.

Asked if the court’s decision could hold implications for the state agency, Bott said he believes “it’s possible.”

“Hopefully they’ll reach some sort of agreement that protects the public and the dog and the owners,” he 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 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 this past 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.

Dakota was adopted out to the mother of Perry’s ex-girlfriend, Janeski. She has said she was unaware of Dakota’s second offense or the scheduled court date.

Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney has said the state was unaware that Dakota was under new ownership, and the court went about scheduling another hearing to give Janeski a chance to be heard.

Smith wrote a letter on Dakota’s behalf to Maloney. After Dakota was ordered euthanized, a member of the board of directors sent a copy to LePage.

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.

Sarah Schindler, a professor of law at the University of Maine School of Law and the Glassman faculty research scholar, said the governor’s pardon falls in line with modern developments in animal law. Historically, animals were treated like property, but many people view their pets as more than that, she said. Scientific research has found that animals have “intentionality” and can feel emotions like regret, she said, which are taken into consideration when someone is pardoned.

While Schindler said she couldn’t speak to Dakota’s case, she said generally that “as our science evolves, I think it makes sense that our laws would as well.”

Dakota is staying at the humane society shelter as the case is contested.

Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239

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Twitter: @madelinestamour