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Animal board's dangerous-dog ruling stands

Posted: Tuesday, February 05, 2002

Louie the dog is still dangerous, according to Juneau's Animal Hearing Board.

The board last month unanimously gave the German shepherd-Lab mix another dangerous-dog label after a July incident that left two cats dead in a Mendenhall Valley neighborhood. The dog now lives out of state.

The case went to the Juneau Assembly on appeal in November. Assembly members remanded the case to the Animal Hearing Board for another hearing after deciding the first one wasn't fair.

The dog's owner, Deborah Horner, has challenged the dangerous-dog ruling - first made last summer - on the grounds Louie was provoked by cats or other animals. She said she will appeal this latest ruling. The board has not met its burden of proof, she said.

"The animal hearing board is not abiding by the law, not reading the law and not reading the law as written," she said.

In written findings released Friday, the five-member board said scratches and a cat bite found on Louie were defensive in nature and indicate he attacked two cats without provocation. In addition, the cats' injuries were characteristic of being attacked and killed by a dog, the board found. No one witnessed any provocation, board chairwoman Jaimie Rountree-Sorg said.

"There's no concrete evidence. Nobody saw or heard anything," she said. "When an animal is being provoked, they're pretty loud about it, barking, growling or something. And there was nothing."

At last month's hearing, Gee Street resident Tonya Crago said a dog, later identified as Louie, killed her deaf cat Baby.

"I looked out my bay window ... and saw a dog with my cat in its mouth, swinging it back and forth," she told the hearing board. "I yelled at the dog to drop the cat and the dog took off."

The second dead cat, Sugar, was owned by Long Run Drive resident Ellen Combs, who didn't see what happened, animal control officer Hoyt Stepp said.

But neighbor Jeremy Kostenko said he went outside that Sunday morning to find a dog "ramming the cat in the ground." He pulled out a shovel to scare the dog away from his daughter, who was outside. When the dog didn't move, Kostenko hit the dog's head and hindquarters and it ran away, he said.

Animal control officers said they traced the dog to Horner's yard. Horner said she was "absolutely stunned" when she saw Louie's injuries. Her dog has lived with cats and other animals before and isn't an aggressive animal, she said.

A destroyed dog bed and matted grass indicated Louie was provoked, Horner said. Louie might have been involved in an incident with cats, but no one saw what happened before the cats were killed, she said.

"The place Louie had been restrained was completely torn apart. It was nothing a previously well-behaved animal would do because he was bored or for fun," she said.

The dangerous-dog ruling means Louie must be securely confined and wear a special collar and tags identifying him as dangerous if he lives in Juneau. City code also requires that the owner have liability insurance. Since August, Louie has been living in New York with a friend of Horner who owns three cats, she said.

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.



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