RUMFORD — The fate of two dogs that killed another dog and injured its owner in Winslow now rests with the justices of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court.

Their owner, Danielle Jones, appealed a district court’s order to euthanize pit bulls Bentley and Kole. That order followed a finding that Jones had committed the civil violation of keeping dangerous dogs after the animals escaped from their fenced-in backyard and killed a 10-month-old Boston terrier.

The court, sitting as the Law Court, heard arguments Friday morning from Jones’ attorney, Richard Rosenthal, and from Kennebec County Assistant District Attorney Tracy DeVoll.

Rosenthal hopes the dogs can be spared. DeVoll said they have proved they are too dangerous and the owner cannot control them. She asked the court to affirm the district court’s euthanasia order.

The Law Court, which held its session at Mountain Valley High School in Rumford, issues rulings later in writing.

A ruling in this case will be among the few regarding this civil statute. Rosenthal noted he had to refer to cases from out of state in his brief because there are so few in Maine.

The justices on Friday appeared to adopt the state’s position and said that District Court Judge Eric Walker, who presided at the two-day trial, took a considered, thoughtful approach to the case and his explanation about why he opted for euthanasia for the animals rather than confinement or muzzles.

The Law Court’s ruling will decide the fate of the two dogs, which escaped from their yard Aug. 30, 2016, on Lucille Street to attack 10-month-old Fergie Rose, being walked by owner Sharron Carey.

Rosenthal maintained that this dangerous-dog prosecution is quasi-criminal in nature rather than simply civil because it was “brought by police, prosecuted by the district attorney’s office and it deals with a forfeiture.” He said Jones should have had a jury trial at which the state would have to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the dogs were dangerous.

He also argued that it was unclear which dog actually inflicted the fatal injuries to Fergie Rose.

Associate Justice Andrew Mead noted that Rosenthal had characterized this as “a death penalty case for animals.”

Rosenthal also said that “euthanasia” is the wrong word in this case.

“It is an execution,” he told the court.

Associate Justice Ellen Gorman told him that the Legislature used the term “euthanasia.” She also told him that his arguments might be received well at the Legislature, but wondered about their place at the appellate level.

Mead said the facts were clear and that the Legislature has determined it is a civil statute that governs these types of cases.

“An individual was walking a small dog down the street and attracted the attention apparently of a couple of large pit bull terriers who somehow escape their enclosure, and as we see in the videotape, race across the front lawn and proceeded to attack this little dog. This other individual picked it up and they pulled it out of her arms and inflicted injuries on the dog that eventually killed it and also injured the person walking the dog.”

He said one of the possible outcomes of someone charged as a keeper of a dangerous dog would be to order the dog muzzled, restrained or euthanized.

Associate Justice Jeffrey Hjelm said, “Even your client described the way the two dogs Bently and Kole acted together. There’s plenty of evidence here that both dogs were involved in this fairly brutal attack.”

He also noted that Rosenthal raised a number of issues in the appeal that were never raised at trial and asked how the Law Court could review them.

Rosenthal said they could be reviewed as plain error.

Associate Justice Donald Alexander, who presided at the oral argument session in the absence of Chief Justice Leigh Saufley, referred to a prior incident in which the two dogs had injured another dog. Alexander said the owners “have demonstrated they’re unwilling to keep their dogs locked up away from people.”

Alexander also referred to a separate dangerous-dog case in Waterville that was prosecuted by the Kennebec County District Attorney’s Office, in which a husky, Dakota, won a reprieve from a euthanasia order. Dakota also received a pardon from the governor.

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

DeVoll said the euthanasia order should stand.

“This case is about protection,” DeVoll said. “It’s about protecting people — men, women, children, babies — and their pets. It’s about protecting them from the defendant’s two dangerous, deadly dogs.”

Mead asked her if there was a fundamental difference between having a piece of property forfeited, such as a boat or motorcycle, and having a dog killed.

He then answered his own question.

“Dogs are members of the family,” he said.

DeVoll said the animals are considered differently from property under the dangerous-dog statute since they are pets, but that these were ordered euthanized because they are too dangerous to let live.

Jones and Brandon Ross, co-owners of the dogs, attended the arguments in Rumford, sitting in the auditorium behind Rosenthal.

The euthanasia order is on hold pending the appeal, and the animals are being kept at the Humane Society Waterville Area.

It did not appear that Sharron Carey was present for Friday’s oral arguments.

Carey has filed a civil lawsuit in Kennebec County Superior Court against Jones, Ross and Danielle Doyon, of Waterville, owner of the home at 12 Lucille St.

Carey, through attorney Steven Blackwell, said that she suffered injuries to her hands, in particular to her 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.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

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Twitter: @betadams