Society

Two Toledo Dogs on Death Row for Killing 4-H Show Pigs Await Judge's Decision

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

Two Toledo dogs, Nala and Bugger, set to be killed for the death of two 4-H show pigs in Monroe County in May 2013, have gained a reprieve while the judge makes a final decision.

Nala and Bugger were deemed guilty in July at a “show cause” hearing held in Bedford Township as directed by the Michigan Dog Law of 1919. The law requires dogs that injure or kill livestock be destroyed, so the dogs have been on death row while their owners appeal the constitutionality of the law.

In the final hearing in Monroe County Circuit Court on Thursday, the lawyer for the owner of the dogs argued that the nearly 100-year-old Michigan law which calls for the execution of the dogs is antiquated.

The fate of those two huskies is now in the hands of a judge who says he will issue his written decision in the next few weeks.

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The case is appealed to the Michigan Court of Appeals. “The appeal has been filed, so they wouldn’t have any reason to deny [the extension],” Janni Juhasz said. “If the dogs are put down, what’s the point of the appeal?”

Mrs. Juhasz, 49, and her daughter, Katalin Juhasz, 22, own the husky mix named Bugger and a husky named Nala. Mrs. Juhasz said the dogs were safe inside the house May 2, 2013, when she left for work around 9:30 a.m. She said her stepson, who does not live in the home, had dropped by the house during the day and accidentally left a side door open. Though the screen door was still shut, Nala knows how to open it.

“Nala figured out how to jump on that storm door and pop the handle,” Mrs. Juhasz said.

While the Juhaszes have a wood-fenced back yard with chicken wire along the bottom to prevent the dogs from digging out, the side door exits to the open front yard. The huskies were found inside a barn on Whiteford Center Road just north of the Ohio-Michigan state line and a little more than a mile from their home.

It was there that two show-quality pigs owned by Stephanie Sonnenberg had been killed and a third was injured.

Ms. Sonnenberg said she witnessed the dogs attacking the surviving pig, and said one of them tried to attack her. She was able to restrain the dogs until Monroe County Animal Control arrived to take custody of them.

Nala and Bugger have been locked up for nine months at the Dog Warden's office in Monroe County, and the Juhaszes have not been allowed to visit them.

"I had Nala since she was six weeks old. Bugger … Nala had him. It breaks my heart," says Katalin Juhasz.

“It was really, really tough,” said Ms. Juhasz, whose first baby is due April 21. “You’re used to the dogs coming and jumping on you, loving on you. And then they’re gone and you can’t see them.”

“I wonder what they think, if they think we abandoned them, if they’re ever going to see us again,” Mrs. Juhasz added. “That really bothers me.”

The dogs' owner doesn't believe her dogs killed the pigs. "They took on 250 pounds of pork and they didn't get one injury? That doesn't make any sense," says Janni Juhasz.

The owner of the pigs would not comment to ABC-13 on or off camera. The owner of the dogs says she's willing to negotiate. She's willing to pay thousands of dollars to save their lives.

The owners say the dogs are on death row because of a state law from the early 1900s that protects poultry and livestock from attacks.

"When that law was passed in 1919, it was an important law," says Janni Juhasz, Katalin's mother. "Many people counted on their livestock to feed their families for the winter. If you lost your livestock, your family could starve. We're not in that position today."

Despite her dispute, based on the state law an animal can be euthanized after one attack if found guilty.

"The statute simply says the dogs are to be killed, are to be euthanized," says Goldsmith, as he defends how Bedford Township followed due process.

Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Michael LaBeau says farming is still important to society, saying it is how we eat.

"I don't see any exceptions to this statue," said Judge LaBeau.

The judge asked if both sides tried to make a financial settlement out of court.

Juhasz says her offer of more than five thousand dollars from insurance to compensate for the loss of the pigs is still on the table.

"It's in God's hands," says Janni Juhasz.

Source: Toledo Blade, ABC 13