The attorneys for Dakota the dog say the governor’s pardon should be upheld in a motion asking the Maine District Court to reconsider its decision.
Darrick Banda, an attorney at the Law Offices of Ronald W. Bourget in Augusta, is representing Dakota’s former owner, Matthew Perry, in a case that garnered national headlines after Gov. Paul LePage issued a “full and free” pardon for the 5-year-old husky. He filed the motion asking for reconsideration of the case Tuesday as well as a motion to halt the appeal process in the meantime.
Meanwhile, Banda has started a GoFundMe page to raise money for the legal fees associated with the case. He said the law firm is working pro bono at this point.
An order to euthanize Dakota was issued March 21 after she got loose in Waterville and attacked a pug named Bruce Wayne. Dakota already had been labeled a “dangerous dog” after killing another dog, Zoe, in May 2016.
Dakota eventually was found after the attack and taken to the Humane Society Waterville Area, where staff members have described her as a “model resident.” A board member at the shelter alerted LePage about the situation, and he issued the pardon March 30.
The dog’s new owner, Linda Janeski, asked the court to throw out the euthanization order, but that request was denied April 11. Both Janeski and Perry have filed appeals in the case.
Banda took on the case because he thinks the governor’s pardon is “being ignored and disrespected, quite frankly,” because of politics.
He also said he’s interested in the case because he owns huskies.
“I think one of the things that’s going on is there’s been sort of a rush to judgment in this case with regards to this dog,” Banda said. “Part of the problem with huskies is that they are escape artists. It’s not so much the fault of the dog as the keeper of the dog.”
Banda said the governor’s pardon of Dakota is also a “key part in the case.” He called it “definitive” and “decisive.”
“Our position is that the governor clearly has the authority to do what he did,” Banda said. “Whether you characterize it as a commutation of a sentence or a transfer of property that the government seized,” the pardon should stand.
The motion Banda filed claims that Dakota should have been returned to the shelter when LePage pardoned her March 30. Because pets are considered property, the euthanasia should be considered a forfeiture of property, the motion says. The pardon effectively would remit the property back to the owners — the shelter — which then could find a new home for the dog.
Under the Maine Constitution, the governor has the power “to remit after conviction all forfeitures and penalties” among other things, but it is unclear whether LePage’s power to pardon applies in this case.
A letter from the Maine attorney general on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry on April 7, which says Dakota is “less of a public safety risk,” given the results of an aggression test she took while at the Humane Society, is also cited multiple times in the motion.
The motion also argues that Perry was not Dakota’s owner when the euthanization order first was handed down because he had handed the dog over to Randy Dipietro in Oakland on Feb. 2.
A person is an animal’s keeper when he is in possession or control of it, or when he feeds it for 10 consecutive days, according to Maine law. Perry hadn’t fed Dakota since Feb. 2, the motion says.
Because Perry was not her owner, he could not have acted as such and agreed to the euthanization in March, the motion argues.
However, if the court finds that Perry was still the owner, he still didn’t have updated information on Dakota.
Perry was not aware that the dog had gone first to the shelter and then to a new owner, nor did he know about the shelter’s test of Dakota’s behavior, according to the motion, which claims that Perry’s plea of keeping a dangerous dog was “not knowing or voluntary” because of a lack of information.
Banda said they are waiting for the court either to agree or to refuse to reconsider the case. If it refuses, the judge must provide the specific facts she found to be true and the conclusions she reached with them.
The motion to stay the appeal says the record is “incomplete” because it’s missing these specifics, which will aid the attorneys if the case goes to the highest court in the state, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
There is no timeline for these actions right now.
Bonnie Martinolich, a partner at PretiFlaherty law firm in Portland and the attorney for Janeski, said her client’s appeal still is pending at the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.
Right now, Martinolich said, they are “looking at all of our options” for Janeski before deciding how to proceed.
Madeline St. Amour — 861-9239