MONROE — As two Sylvania Township women await a final ruling on their two dogs’ fate, they may have found an ally in Daphnia Davis, who almost lost her beloved pets after they were shot by a neighbor.
The three women, all dog owners, feel a 1919 law still on the books in Michigan requiring dogs be killed if they attack or kill livestock, should be overturned.
Janni Juhasz and her daughter, Katalin Juhasz, of Sylvania Township, are fighting to keep Michigan officials from killing their dogs, Nala, a female Siberian husky, and Bugger, her mixed male offspring, which were found liable for the May deaths of a Lambertville woman's two show-quality pigs.
Although the pigs' owner claims Nala and Bugger killed her pigs, there is no proof of that and the Juhasz women deny the allegations.
The Juhaszes’ dogs have been held in kennels at Monroe County Animal Control since May 2, when Stephanie Sonnenberg’s pigs were killed and another pig was attacked in a barn on Whiteford Center Road just north of the Ohio-Michigan line.
As required by the Michigan dog law, Bedford Township held a “show cause” hearing July 25. The township ordinance officer determined the dogs were responsible and assessed the dog owners $9,000 for damages and the costs of caring for the dogs while in county custody. The owners also were told that Nala and Bugger would be killed because of the 1919 state law.
Monroe County Circuit Judge Michael LaBeau upheld the ordinance officer’s decision and denied the Juhaszes’ attorney’s motion that the Dog Law of 1919 is unconstitutional.
But on Friday, Judge LaBeau granted a temporary restraining order to stay the execution of the dogs and scheduled a hearing Tuesday on the matter. The dogs’ owners also filed an appeal Friday with the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Mrs. Davis’ dogs, Brodie and Rags, were peppered with birdshot in January, 2010, when they strayed onto the property of a neighbor, Jan J. Jay, in northern Monroe County’s Exeter Township.
Brodie, a male golden retriever mix, was shot in the head, causing permanent injuries including blindness. Rags, a male Australian shepherd, was struck by pellets throughout his body. The dogs, who ran off Mr. Jay’s property after they were shot, went missing for several days, and underwent surgery at a veterinary hospital in Dundee.
Mr. Jay admitted to sheriff’s deputies that he shot the dogs, but cited the Michigan Dog Law of 1919 to defend his action, claiming he was under attack in his yard when he used his 410-gauge shotgun to fire at them.
Mrs. Davis, 69, said she pushed authorities to charge Mr. Jay with cruelty to animals. She said her dogs were passive and friendly.
But the county prosecutor’s office, after reviewing the incident, declined to file charges because the office believed he was within his rights under Michigan’s 1919 livestock law, which provides compensation for the owners of livestock or poultry killed by dogs that trespass into fields or enclosed areas.
“That law should be changed,” Mrs. Davis said. “I think the law was wrongly used in this case. They should have got [Mr. Jay] for cruelty to animals.”
Mrs. Davis, a retired school bus driver, said she has paid close attention to local newspaper stories about the dogs. She agrees with Mrs. Juhasz and her daughter that the law is antiquated and needs to be reworked.
“I am wondering if they got dental records of the dogs and compared them to the bite marks on the pigs to determine if they were the same. My mind went wild reading the articles and about those dogs,” she said. “I know what I went through with my two dogs. My heart goes out to the families.”
Mrs. Davis’ dog Brodie, who died a year ago from health problems unrelated to the shooting, was just over 3 years old at the time of the shooting. Rags, whom Mrs. Davis and her husband, Joe, received as a puppy, was only 8 months old.
“Brodie’s whole face was peppered with birdshot. Rags was so badly shot he had to be shaved to get the pellets out of him,” Mrs. Davis said.
Mr. Jay, 62, said in a phone interview Saturday that Brodie and Rags had gotten through the fence that surrounds his home earlier that day and he struck them with a rake after one of the dogs “pinned down” a goose. He said he called the sheriff’s department to report the dogs loose on his property.
Later that day, he said, the two dogs approached him and became aggressive after he got out of his vehicle in the driveway.
“They had attacked my geese earlier that day. When I shot them, they were physically attacking me,” Mr. Jay said. “At the time they were not attacking my geese. They had earlier, and I whacked them with a rake.”
It is unclear why the Michigan Dog Law of 1919 was not applied to the Davis dogs.
However, Mr. Jay said he didn’t ask the Exeter Township ordinance officer to investigate the incident because he had more important issues in life, including caring for his wife, now deceased, who had been diagnosed with cancer.
William Nichols, the county prosecutor, could not be reached for comment.
“I can tell you that it is tragic,” Mr. Jay said about shooting Mrs. Davis’ dogs. “It is not the dogs’ fault, but the people who own them or control them, for going out and doing stupid things. The bigger problem I see is nobody takes responsibility for their dogs.”
Contact Mark Reiter at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6199.