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Courts and Crime

LePage Grants ‘Full and Free Pardon’ to Husky With Violent History

Alaskan husky named Dakota, March 30, 2017, in Waterville, Maine. Gov. Paul LePage said he pardoned the dog from a death sentence levied at a court hearing last week, after it killed a neighbor's small pug in May 2016.
Karen Vance/Waterville Humane Society via AP
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Alaskan husky named Dakota, March 30, 2017, in Waterville, Maine. Gov. Paul LePage said he pardoned the dog from a death sentence levied at a court hearing last week, after it killed a neighbor's small pug in May 2016.

Gov. Paul LePage has pardoned a dog.

The unusual move, which is now generating headlines around the country, was taken on behalf of a husky named Dakota with a violent past. Dakota’s owners have been ordered to euthanize her, and it’s unclear whether the governor’s action will spare her life.

Dakota’s troubles began last year when she got loose and allegedly killed a small dog in Waterville. She then got tagged as a dangerous dog and was ordered to be properly confined. But, according to Kennebec County District Attorney Maeghan Maloney, Dakota terrified the same homeowners a second time.

“She broke free, went directly to the victims’ home and attacked their brand new dog. So they went through this twice with Dakota,” she says.

Dakota’s owner then gave her away, but she wouldn’t stay put. Dakota got picked up as a stray and was sent to the Humane Society Waterville Area shelter, where Director Lisa Smith says she was a model resident.

“And we found her to be very well behaved. She was friendly with staff, easygoing, friendly with other dogs,” she says.

Earlier this month Dakota was placed in a new home, where her owners changed her name. But she still faced a court date over her past, and at that hearing last week, a judge ordered the new owners to have the dog destroyed.

Enter Gov. LePage.

“I have reviewed the facts of this case and I believe the dog ought to be provided a full and free pardon,” he said in a written statement.

“I’d never heard of such a thing before,” Smith says.

She says she and others at the shelter appreciate the governor’s intervention. Maloney says she isn’t quite sure what it actually means.

Ultimately, she says, it’s a decision for the court.

“I have not ever handled a case where a dog has been pardoned before, so this is my first experience with it. I am looking at the Maine Constitution. Section 11 addresses the power to pardon directly and that’s what we’ll be discussing in relation to this issue at the hearing,” Maloney says.

That hearing is scheduled for Friday morning. Maloney says if LePage knew the traumatic effect Dakota’s actions had on the victims in the case he might have come to a different conclusion.