Thursday, May 21, 2015

Wolf-dogs spared but must stay behind electric fence

MUNCIE, Ind. — The lives of two wolf-dog hybrids that killed a Jack Russell terrier have been spared, but their owner must beef up the fencing that contains them, authorities said.

Owner Stan Stephens has nine dogs, many of which have wolf genetics. And he now must use electrified fencing and barbed wire to contain them, according to a unanimous vote Tuesday from the Muncie Animal Care & Services Commission. "I do not want my dogs put down," Stephens told the board. He would not comment further after the meeting.

He also will have to keep his dogs outfitted with muzzles and 3-foot leashes when they're not fenced in. If they attack or kill again, the dogs will be euthanized, board members said.

"I feel satisfied," Ashley Reed, whose terrier Peyton was killed in Reed's yard, said after the meeting. "I feel safe knowing those things have to happen. It's not like we were out for the kill."

Emotions were high during the meeting. People on both sides spoke with emotion-choked voices and a Stephens supporter called one of Reed's supporters a rude term as the crowd filed out of the city hall auditorium.

The facts of the incident were never in dispute. On May 4, Reed left her 8-year-old Jack Russell terrier on her patio while she took her oldest child to preschool.

Upon returning with her youngest child, she spotted one of Stephens' dogs, Ryg, in her yard, growling at her. Another of Stephens' dogs, Polar Bear, was shaking Peyton, causing its death.

The animal control board's chairman, local veterinarian Mike Brown, reminded the audience that the board's decision had to follow the local animal control ordinance.

One of Reed's neighbors testified that on the day Stephens' dogs killed Reed's dog they had also nearly killed her cat, but it got into her porch in time.

Stephens' supporters testified that they couldn't imagine that his dogs would kill another animal although the facts of the case were never questioned.

Muncie Animal Shelter director Phil Peckinpaugh recommended against euthanasia for the two dogs but recommended that the board impose several conditions, including higher and double fences, electrified fences, that the two dogs be spayed or neutered and that signs warning of dangerous and vicious dogs be posted.

The board added further restrictions, including the muzzles in public and unannounced inspections from the animal shelter staff.