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Monkey Business

Canine Clashes – Part 2

Last month in the “Monkey Chronicles,” I wrote about the sheriff’s deputy who confiscated my neighbors’ three-year-old Great Danes on Oct. 11 because they had allegedly attacked another neighbor’s dog. There was never a question that the alleged incident took place on the property of the Great Danes. The Danes were also contained in a fenced area, and the victim dog would have had to, without a doubt, come onto the Danes property and stick her head through the fence if the dogs had indeed injured her. Remember, no one saw the incident.When I wrote the last column, I had not seen the sheriff’s report (we had to go through the bureaucratic run around before we received the report).After we received the report, my neighbors had no choice but to hire an attorney to defend the Great Danes. Trust me on this one – had my neighbors not hired an attorney, the trial date could have been set for weeks, even months, down the road. Not to mention fair representation. Without at attorney, the beautiful Danes might have been incarcerated at the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region for possibly a good six months. They call them “dogs on hold,” because they are awaiting trial for getting in trouble. All of the other incarcerated dogs on hold with the Great Danes had bitten a human.Anyway, from the beginning of this fiasco, the owners of the Great Danes had little say in the deputy’s decision, according to the sheriff’s report. That same report indicated that the deputy listened to three people only. There were other surrounding neighbors but we were not called.Fast forward a couple of weeks later and my neighbors had found a reasonable attorney willing to take the case. Once he was on board, here’s how it all came down.The attorney scheduled an emergency meeting with a judge on Nov. 9 (almost one month after the incident). My neighbor’s attorney was 90 percent certain the prosecutor and the judge would dismiss the case because the Great Danes were on their own property.It didn’t go down that way. Nope. The victim dog’s owner and the two neighborhood “witness” (we’ll call them neighbor No. 1 and neighbor No. 2 for the purposes of this article) showed up and apparently convinced the prosecutor there was an actual case to be tried. The prosecutor agreed. Therefore, it was back to court the following week, Nov. 16, for an actual trial. (I personally think this was a bit of tax dollar waste.)During the week prior to the trial date, my neighbors gathered quite a bit of information and evidence refuting the statements neighbors No. 1 and No. 2 gave to the deputy the night the Danes were hauled off to jail. And I found another neighbor who was willing to testify to the problems they had previously encountered with the free-roaming, victim dog.We were prepared for court. I would have testified to the good nature of the Great Danes and that my dogs and the Danes interacted constantly along the fence without incident. I would have testified that neighbor No. 2 witness against the Great Danes shot my Irish Setter when he wondered onto the sharp shooter’s property and allegedly scared his wife (when is the last time you heard of a vicious Irish Setter)?I would have talked about my fear riding my bike or taking my own dogs for a walk because the victim dog would run toward us and scare me and intimidate my dogs. I would have said that I had witnessed the victim dog goading the Great Danes at their fence numerous times before this incident. And I would have testified that neighbor No. 1 witness had told me two days after the incident that he heard nothing and saw nothing; yet, he told the deputy that he heard a raucous at the fence in the late morning on the day of the alleged incident.My neighbors, the defendants, had solid witnesses – one a prominent official – who told me that he had been to the home of the Great Danes on several occasions. They were not dangerous or vicious. Another witness told me she had brought her grandchild to my neighbors’ home many times, and the child had interacted with the Danes without a problem.We all would have testified to our property lines.My neighbors told me that neighbor witness No. 1 had brought his daughter to their home several times, even though he told the officer that he “feared for his child’s safety.” I would have testified that this same neighbor, who feared the dogs, was more than willing to help me (he said) when I took care of the Great Danes this summer in my neighbor’s absence.The defending attorney would have submitted a statement refuting neighbor witnesses’ No. 1 and No. 2, who both told the deputy, according to the sheriff’s report, that the Great Danes cornered No. 2’s wife by her mailbox. They told the deputy that the mailperson had to scatter the dogs. However, the mailperson had a different story.The mailperson they are referring to gave my neighbors a signed statement about what really happened when the Danes got out of their fence. I saw the statement. The Great Danes were running down the street and never came close to neighbor No. 1’s wife. The mailperson said the wife was coming down her driveway to get the mail, and, when she noticed the Danes RUNNING DOWN THE STREET – she turned around to go back to her home. The mailperson kindly drove in to give her the mail. There was never an incident with the Danes, the mailperson said in a written statement. This is the same woman who encountered my “vicious” Irish setter.Well, none of that testimony was heard because, when the attorney told the prosecutor that he was going for an affirmative defense, she looked a bit panicked. Let me explain affirmative defense. The state statute, under which the dogs were confiscated, allows for an affirmative defense, which means a solid defense under the statute is that the dogs were on their own property when the alleged incident occurred.However, upon hearing the affirmative defense, the prosecutor immediately asked for a continuance. She told the judge that the defending attorney did not “warn” her of this defense. (The attorney told the judge he faxed the information regarding the affirmative defense to the prosecutor the day before.) That didn’t seem to matter. The prosecutor told the judge that she needed time to bring in witnesses to testify that the portion of the property where the alleged incident took place was county property. Yeh, and that witness would surface when hell freezes over. My neighbors had already counted on that – they had a statement from the assessor’s office. The property belonged to my neighbors and the Great Danes.The judge called the two attorneys to the bench, and told the defending attorney that he would most likely grant the continuance. This could mean that the Great Danes would remain incarcerated for another week, two weeks, a month, or three months. It all depended on the court schedule. My neighbors were emotionally spent. And they were financially spent because they had to pay the humane society room and board every day the dogs were in jail. AND of course they had to pay the attorney.All my neighbors could think about was getting their Great Danes home. So they settled. The settlement allowed the release of the Great Danes to a restricted kennel area on their property – for now. And my neighbors and the victim dog’s owner would have three months to work out payment of the veterinary bill.By the way, the victim dog is dead. We don’t know if she died because of the injuries – that wasn’t clear because we didn’t have a trial. Unfortunately, animals are usually scapegoats for irresponsible human behavior. And, in my opinion, it is completely irresponsible to allow a dog the freedom to go wherever, whenever.But the judge didn’t hear about irresponsible behavior. Instead, my neighbors told me the judge asked both parties before they left the courtroom if they were satisfied with the settlement. (I had left the courtroom shortly after the settlement was reached.) My neighbors said the victim dog’s owner told the judge that all she wanted was for the neighborhood to be safe. Now that the victim dog is no longer roaming the streets, maybe the neighborhood will be safe, at least somewhat.In the end, there was no justice, but the Great Danes are home, though restricted. If dogs could only talk – for sure they’d say, and so do I: Damn the court system for not letting due process work.Comments? You can email me at mlmon@att.net.

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