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Monkey Business

Great Days ahead for the Great Danes – finally

When I was younger, I believed life was fair. I believed our justice system was fair, treating everyone equally. I didn’t understand personal agendas, power, greed and indifference.That was then. I grew up and realized that, as adults, we face life’s challenges in one of three ways: bury our heads in the sand and pay no heed to what doesn’t affect our own sandbox; go completely insane trying to expose or fix the system; become cynical, jaded and give up and find a beach house in Mexico stocked full of tequila.I am somewhere between insane and Mexico.However, before I reach Mexico, let me update you on the Great Dane fiasco. It has everything to do with the justice system fiasco.A brief recap of the story: On Oct. 11, 2004, a sheriff’s deputy confiscated my neighbors’ three-year-old Great Danes 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, who were contained in their fenced area. 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. No one saw the incident.The victim dog died supposedly of the injuries. (I say supposedly because no one saw what happened, and it was not determined in court that the dogfight injuries caused the death.)Long story short: The sheriff determined from talking to a few neighbors whose story conflicted with a few other neighbors and one mail delivery person that the Great Danes were at fault, so they were taken to the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region to await a court hearing.That initial court appearance was the first justice fiasco/abomination. The attorney scheduled an emergency meeting with a judge on Nov. 9, and he was certain the judge would dismiss the case because the Great Danes were on their own property. However, the prosecutor told the judge she wasn’t prepared for the property defense. She asked the judge for more time to bring in witnesses to testify that the portion of the property where the alleged incident took place was county property (would not have happened). The judge told the attorneys that he would most likely grant the continuance. It would be best if they could settle this. If they didn’t, the Great Danes could have remained in jail at the humane society for weeks, even months.My neighbors did not want that for their dogs. They settled for the sake of the dogs and agreed to the following: The Great Danes were released to their own kennel area located in their barn. They were restricted from running free on the property until the case was dismissed. The judge would dismiss the case in February, if my neighbors made restitution for the veterinary bills incurred by the trespassing neighbor dog. The owners of the Great Danes agreed – reluctantly because they knew it meant another three months of incarceration for their dogs. But at least their dogs would be home.So, because of a prosecutor who was not prepared (and knew she would lose) and a judge who found favor with a continuance, my neighbors were bullied into a settlement.Fast forward to February 4. On that date, the Great Danes owners paid the veterinary bill and a $600 bond (for the Danes stay at the humane society). The total bill was $3,067.39 plus a $25 processing fee. The money was paid to the court.When my neighbors reviewed their receipt on the way home, there was a note stating they had overpaid the amount by $600. The court employee had deducted the veterinary bill from the total amount, forgetting about the $600 bond.Another fiasco ensued.When my neighbors tried to clear this up, they were challenged with a bureaucratic runaround that is too lengthy and complicated to relay, unless I was writing a book. Just vision numerous phone calls, being put on hold for up to 20 minutes on some occasions, days of trying to fix the situation, lost work time, aloof and indifferent court personnel, mixed messages from your attorney; and, meanwhile, your health is on a fast track downhill because the system has grated your very last nerve.To top it off: Because of the court’s blatant mistake on the “overpayment” of the $600, my neighbor’s tax return was garnished (of course, the IRS will reimburse the money because the money had really been paid, but it will take them six weeks to resend the tax return, thank you very much). Give me a break!Finally, the judge signed off on the case dismissal, and, after numerous calls to the defending attorney, the prosecutors office, the humane society and the sheriff’s department, the Great Danes have been once again given their freedom to run on THEIR OWN PROPERTY, WHERE THEY WERE WHEN THIS INCIDENT HAPPENED.(Prior to their release, a too eager prosecutor told a humane society representative that the dogs could never be released – many people would have given up at that point.)It was a fiasco from the beginning, and it started with the sheriff’s deputy who listened to some tall tales from some people who should have minded their own business.Regardless of the situation, the problems that my neighbors intercepted with the way the courts handled the case is beyond my wildest imagination. There were so many times that my neighbors could have given up.I received a lot of calls and letters from people about this situation – all of the comments defended the dogs’ right to defend his or her own territory.I received a letter from one woman who encountered a similar situation with her dog who was “jailed” when a stranger dog came onto her property and fought with her dog. Her dog, who was on his own property, was hauled off to the humane society. She couldn’t stand to see her dog behind bars and she couldn’t afford the “room and board” for the jail time. She euthanized her own dog.There are many people, no matter the situation, who don’t have the time, the money or the understanding to challenge the system, to ask questions, to dig deeper, and they get lost forever in the system. They give up.I don’t care if you are saying, “Yeh, but it’s still America, and it’s better here than anywhere else.” Well, to you I say, you’re right. It IS America, and that’s why there should be no excuses for anything other than a just and accessible system, one that you can trust.For now, before I hit the beaches and bury my head in the sand, it’s nice to look outside and see the boys – the Great Danes – once again playing and frolicking on their five acres. The way it’s supposed to be.To the neighbors who were involved on the other side: Case dismissed. Let it go.

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