Legal battle continues over dogs accused of mauling horse

News Photo by Julie Riddle A dog’s paws, seen in Alpena on Sunday. In Presque Isle County, two dogs accused of mauling a horse await a state Court of Appeals decision.

ROGERS CITY — The owner of two dogs accused of mauling a horse must pay $25,000 to keep the dogs alive until a state court decides their fate, a Presque Isle County judge decided last month.

Two American bulldogs — found covered in blood near a gravely wounded horse in October 2019 — have been housed at the Cheboygan County Humane Society since the incident, the euthanization ordered more than a year ago delayed pending a decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals.

According to attorneys representing the dog’s owner, Amanda Reed, the prosecution failed to prove the dogs were responsible for the horse’s injuries.

Judge Maria Barton, in Presque Isle County’s 89th District Court, last month said Reed must pay $25,000 toward the cost of the dogs’ upkeep or the stay of euthanization order will be lifted.

In payments authorized by the Presque Isle County Board of Commissioners, the county has paid $21,000 to the Cheboygan County Humane Society for the dogs’ care and, in March, agreed to pay the shelter $1,800 per month until the Appeals Court decision, according to Presque Isle County Clerk Ann Marie Main.

Boarding the dogs costs $20 per dog, per day, according to defense attorney Matt Wojda.

According to court records, the dogs ran from their home near Rayburn Highway in October 2019 when their owner’s attention was distracted. The dogs were found hours later, injured and bloody, in a barn about a mile and half from their home.

A horse in a separate stall was seriously injured, with jagged tears on its head, chest, and legs that, according to veterinarian testimony, were most likely caused by an animal attack.

Because of the extent of the horse’s injuries — which, among other things, would have prevented the animal from eating or drinking — the owners decided the horse should be euthanized, according to court records.

Following the incident, Barton decided evidence presented by Presque Isle County Prosecutor Ken Radzibon made it clear the dogs attacked the horse and, as a danger to the community, should be euthanized.

At the time, Reed was ordered to pay $4,440 in boarding expenses to keep the dogs housed at the Cheboygan shelter while her attorney appealed the ruling.

Wojda contended in the appeal that there is no proof the dogs attacked the horse. He also questioned the assumption that both dogs participated in any attack, contended the dogs did not destroy property because euthanizing the horse was the owner’s decision, and said the dogs may have acted in self-defense after being attacked by the horse.

Unless a dog is defending a human or its owner’s property — or the dog is tormented by a human — it doesn’t legally matter whether a dog was provoked in determining if the animal is vicious, Radzibon said.

The case is pending before the Court of Appeals, which might hear arguments in July, according to a state court spokesman.

Neither of the parties have filed a motion to expedite appeals proceedings, the spokesman said.

Last month, Barton gave Reed a matter of weeks to pay $25,000 to continue postponement of the dogs’ euthanization.

If the Appeals Court fails to overturn the local courts’ decisions, housing expenses will fall to the owner, and the dogs may be euthanized.

Should the Appeals Court reverse Barton’s decision, the county could be on the hook for the cost of the dogs’ care, according to Wojda.

Meanwhile, the dogs remain in isolation at the shelter, according to Mary Talaske, Cheboygan County Humane Society executive director.

One of the dogs can be handled and taken for walks, but the other is aggressive and a danger to shelter workers, Talaske said. The dogs are in as good a shape as could be expected for animals kept in a kennel for 18 months, she said.

“Nothing deserves to be locked up for that long,” Talaske said.


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