Save Fury from euthenasia
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Our family dog, Fury, is a Rhodesian Ridgeback/Labrador mix. He is currently being held by Draper City Animal Control. We believe he is being held unfairly and are seeking support in preparation for our next court date. This letter is long, but it tells Fury’s whole story. If you have time to read it before you sign, our family would appreciate getting his story out!
Fury will be 2 years old on May 24th. He is a very high-energy dog with some anxiety issues, although we are working through those. He was named Fury, by the way, by our then 10 year old daughter. She’d just seen The Avengers and thought Nick Fury was pretty cool :)
Early in April Fury was outside in our backyard watching a landscaper aerate the lawn next door. Loud noises make him nervous, as do men he doesn’t know. If I’d been being a good dog owner I wouldn’t have had him outside with all those stresses, but I wasn’t paying enough attention. When the landscaper stepped close enough to our yard that Fury could reach him, he darted in and bit the mans ankle. This was a quick “go away!” bite, not an attack. Only one tooth broke skin. This was the first time he’d ever bitten anyone, but just the same we took it very seriously. We apologized profusely to the landscaper and to the neighbors on whose property he was working. The landscaper told me he was going to call Animal Control about the bite – I said of course he should do whatever he felt was necessary, that I wasn’t going to try to talk him out of anything.
We immediately got Fury into training with a wonderful woman who has dealt with aggressive dogs before. She met and evaluated Fury and said first thing that she would not consider him aggressive, but that he had high anxiety and was fearful of new people and noises. She said (and put in writing) that she feels that he was “not aggressively going after the gentleman but more the loud yard device he was using at the time.”
A few days later Animal Control officer Heather Baugh told me that the man Fury had bitten was considering pressing charges. She told me that if he did that we might be ordered to put the dog down. I was terribly upset, but Heather was very helpful. She said she would try to talk him out of pressing charges. The next day we spoke again and Heather told me he had indeed decided to press charges and that it was likely that we’d have to put Fury down. I was devastated, and called the landscaper to talk to him. I told him Fury was in training and that he’d been classified as having anxiety, not being aggressive, and that this was fixable. He replied that he was NOT pressing charges. All he’d done was fill out a witness statement.
The next morning Officer Baugh came to my home to issue a citation. I said to her that the landscaper was not pressing charges and asked what that meant. Her demeanor changed immediately. She was no longer my sympathetic friend, she was Animal Control taking care of a dangerous dog. She replied that “he didn’t have to press charges” I asked if that meant that Draper City was – to which she wouldn’t even respond.
We went to court on May 6th. I took with me a letter from a neighbor whose young sons (8, 11 and 14) have cared for Fury when we have been away overnight (feeding, watering, even giving medication once). The letter said that they’ve had no problem with him and haven’t seen aggressive behavior from him. I also took a letter from our trainer that stated that Fury was not aggressive but that he had anxiety. She said he was doing well in training learning to relax his brain and be more comfortable with new things. It also outlined that he should have continued behavioral training and socialization and that those things should allow him to overcome his anxiety completely.
The judge looked these over but wasn’t convinced. He ordered that we turn Fury over within 7 days to be destroyed. I asked if we could re-home him instead and he said yes, as long as it was outside of Draper City. I asked about appealing the decision and was given instructions for filling out paperwork by a court employee. I asked what would hapeen with the sentence if we appealed and they had me write“Request to stay sentencing pending appeal” on the paperwork (I have a copy) and told me to check in later in the week.
I started working right away to find Fury a new home and got several offers to foster him. I had one family offer to adopt him. On May 8 I called the court and spoke to Kelly. I asked if our stay had been granted. She put me on hold for a few minutes, then came back and said yes, it had been granted.
I was surprised! I honestly hadn’t expected it and worried that it was too good to be true. I said “are you sure?” and she said yes. I said “is there anything else I need to do?” she said no. I said “so that’s it?” and she said yes. I said “I don’t mean to keep asking, I’m just afraid animal control will show up and try to take him away.” She said “well they wouldn’t do that because there won’t be an order to.” I said thank you and that was the end.
After that we moved forward trying to prepare for the next court date (June 9.) We continued working with our trainer and I began looking for another animal expert to evaluate Fury, hoping that two evaluations would be more effective than just one.
On May 21, Animal Control officer Dennis Wilson knocked on my front door with a police officer. They told me I needed to turn Fury over to them. Fury wasn’t here at the time, he was with his trainer, and so I told them that. I said we had a stay, he was allowed to be with us. He said there had been another incident and so the stay didn’t matter. I said no – there had been no incident! Eventually he left, after telling me I was in contempt of court and that I needed to be in court tomorrow morning at 9am.
I then headed to the court to see if I could get anything figured out immediately. The judge wasn’t in so instead the prosecutor, Ben Rasmussen came out to speak with me. He was incredibly abusive and literally yelled at me for several minutes, not allowing me to get a word in. He told me I had not been granted a stay and basically called me a liar for saying I had. When I told him I’d been told by the receptionist that I had a stay he said “she doesn’t grant them”, as if I thought she did.
After talking to him I spoke to Kelly. I asked her if the computer said anything about a stay for my sentence, and when she looked she said it did not. I asked if she remembered me calling to find out and relayed how I kept asking “are you sure?” and she absolutely DID remember the call. She said she remembered putting me on hold and asking about the stay and that she’d need told YES, it was granted. She did not remember who told her yes, however. I asked what she thought I should do and she said I was supposed to turn the dog over until the appeal. I told her that based on our previous experiences on this case I didn’t trust Animal Control not to put him down in the meantime. She said “well, there’s no order for that.” I said yes, but supposedly there had been no order for him to be taken away from us, either, yet Animal Control had shown up this morning. She agreed and then said that as a pet owner herself, she could only advise that I do whatever my conscious said to do. I took that to mean that she wouldn’t turn her dog over, either.
Our trainer agreed to keep Fury for us, foster him if need be. She is a member of the Rescue Rover rescue group and evaluates dogs for them. We turned Fury over to her and the Rescue Rovers, but unfortunately that was temporary. He has always been a wonderful dog in our home, although I understand that his anxiety has made him “scary” looking to others at times. However, the training has been working wonders. Our trainer wrote another letter on May 21 that says “I have been working with the Moody’s dog fury for several weeks now and have seen some major improvements. With some changes in his routine and environment his anxiety level has decreased dramatically. He is a very intelligent dog that learns quickly and maintains things easily. He is still a very young dog that has so much potential to become completely stable and the Moody’s are working very hard to see that happen. I have never witnessed any dog aggression with Fury. He has stayed at my home and business where multiple types and sizes of dogs are and he has been fine with them all. Even while out walking he doesn’t display any dog aggression.”
On May 22 my husband and I returned to court on the charge that we had failed to comply with the judge’s order to surrender or rehome the dog. Paperwork stated that “no stay was requested or issued upon Defendant’s appeal”.
Before court began I asked the public defender about working with him. He told me I had to make a formal request of the judge which would delay our case.
When I was called up for our charges the judge began by telling me that I had misunderstood the stay - that only the penalty of a fine or jail was stayed and nothing else. I attempted to explain that I had specifically asked about the order to surrender or re-home the dog when I asked about the stay, but the judge cut me off and told me he was willing to let it go and move forward and that he was not going to put me in jail for non-compliance. Yet.
I went on to explain that as soon as I was made aware that the stay I had been told was granted actually had not been, I immediately became compliant. I contacted the dogs trainer, who fosters for Rescue Rovers, and re-homed him with her.
At that point the prosecutor laughed loudly in a derisive tone and said that it was too late for that, the dog had to be turned over. I then showed 2 turnover forms, one signed by Robyn Carlson with a note that said she was now in possession of the dog.
To be honest, a lot of the back and forth between the judge, myself and the prosecutor is a blur in my mind. The judge was unsure about the law so he had us return to our seats. He then heard a couple more cases, looked at the law and called me back up to the stand. As we spoke this time something else confused him, so he once again sent us back to our seats and the court took a short recess so that he could review the law. When I was called back up for the final time I was told that he understood that the case was still in his jurisdiction. He cited several city codes, reading them aloud and then asked if I understood. I said no, not really, and attempted to ask some questions. He then told me that he could not be my legal counsel and didn’t answer any more questions. He then said he was going to order that the dog be turned over to animal control for holding until appeal. I asked about the fact that he had already been re-homed. The judge said that because there was no legal evidence of it (i.e. no new registration of the dog in a new city with a new owner) it didn’t work. I said that we hadn’t had time for that, but that I would do it immediately if it was allowed. At that point the prosecutor interrupted and said the city wanted the dog impounded and that the judge had already signed an order for it on Tuesday. The judge took a moment to look and then agreed that he had signed an order for it and ordered that we turn the dog over. I expressed concern over the dog being put down and he said the wouldn’t happen until at least the following week. The prosecutor interrupted again and said that really Draper City couldn’t put him down at all as along as I complied because of the appeal.
The judge then said I needed to return to court in one week (I’m honestly not sure why) and return to the court in the afternoon for paperwork.
When we left the courtroom we spoke to the Animal Control Supervisor Dennis Wilson. I expressed concern over turning the dog over. I told him I was afraid they would hurt him. He assured me they would not. I asked about bringing a bed, toys and food for the dog and he said that was fine. I asked about visiting the dog and he said that was fine. Officer Wilson was very decent. The prosecutor then came out and asked if we were okay with him filing a motion to stay the sentence with the 3rd district court in order to remove Judge Bertch from the case. I asked why and he explained and I agreed. We made plans to turn Fury over in the afternoon.
We turned our beloved family pet over on the afternoon of May 22 around 4:30. Dennis was polite and professional and he gave us some good advice about obtaining additional evaluations for the dog. He said we probably just needed to socialize him a lot (which we were doing and would still be doing were he not locked up at Animal Control.) Dennis told me to put my mind at ease and promised that Fury would be okay with him. I do feel a bit better about the care he is under, but I still have major concerns.
I am still very upset over the dog being impounded. I think it’s bad for Fury and unfair to my family. I worry that he will become over stressed in this strange, lonely environment and that he will act accordingly. I worry that animal control officers will see this behavior and recommend he be put down. I’m worried that I’ll never get my sweet puppy back.
I have a second evaluation scheduled for Tuesday, May 27. I am working on scheduling a third evaluation. I am planning to visit Fury every day to make sure that he knows we still love him, but it’s not enough. This is a good dog who made one mistake and he deserves to be with his family.
I’m also concerned about the paperwork I received from the court that details the case thus far. There is a lot of incorrect information in it. For instance, it states that this was not the first biting offense, which it absolutely was. It also states that I did not seek an additional stay of the sentence, which I absolutely did. Finally, it states that the court did not stay the sentence because of the history of the dog, the nature of problems created in the neighborhood, and statement of the defendant regarding continued presence of the dog.
The dogs only history is that he was once “at large” (in a neighbors yard - a woman who hated dogs and called on them nearly every day that she lived in this neighborhood) over a year ago. He hasn’t been out of our yard unless he was on a leash in over a year. The dog has not created any problem in the neighborhood, and in fact the man he bit didn’t even live in this neighborhood. Finally, I have no idea what statement I could have made that would make the judge think Fury’s continued presence here would be anything bad.
I spoke to Prosecutor Ben Rasmussen again on May 23 to confirm some things and he stated at one point that “from what he’d seen” the dog shouldn’t be at home. I said that I wasn’t aware he’d ever “seen” the dog. He said he’s going by what he’s been advised by Animal Control. That is exactly my concern - that animal control’s opinion and recommendation is being given undue weight. I could bring in dozens of people that would be happy to tell the courts that Fury is a good dog, but no one else's opinion is being heard.
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