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Man’s best friend on trial

Edward Frankonis, Crier Staff

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Over this (incredibly short) “break”, I was about as productive as most of the American college population; I watched the Hunchback of Notre Dame for the first time, visited my grandmother, ate mom-made cuisine, and cuddled with my dog. The best part of my respite in a vacation that can best be described as the eye of the college storm was catching up on affairs transpiring in my home state of Maine.

Not too much happens in Maine, and for the most part that’s a good thing. Aside from the occasional ice storms or volcanic outbursts of rage that erupt now and then from the Blaine House (the governor’s mansion), Maine is a very peaceful state.

So when I returned to Maine last week I was surprised to hear that a state judge had overruled a pardon given by the governor, Paul LePage, for a homicidal dog. This piece of news–which I will elaborate on later–serves as one quirky reminder that we are more keen to be empathetic to the plight of animals versus the struggles of our own human race.

But first, more on the story of the murderous canine and his executive admirer. Dakota the husky was bought by a Waterville (that’s Waterville Maine) resident and permitted to run loose on the owner’s property. Because he was loose, Dakota crossed into the neighbor’s yard, got into a fight with their smaller dog, and killed it. Subsequently confined to a leash, Dakota managed to get free again and attack another dog.

Dakota was given to a friend of the owner, who permitted the dog to roam about freely. Dakota escaped and was subsequently picked up by the Humane Society in Waterville (again, the one in Maine), where the shelter’s head observed him as a “model resident”. Animal control later told the shelter the dog was in the shelter’s care; he was subsequently put up for adoption.

In the background of all this, a state judge heard charges that the owners of the second dog were placing against Dakota. The judge sentenced the four year old Husky to be euthanized–in less flowery language, given a seizure medication so that the dog will fall unconscious and die.

The new owners were thus very surprised when the judge’s order arrived at their home, and the animal shelter was rather distressed to hear of the news. The head of the shelter wrote a letter to Maine’s firebrand of a governor asking him to use his state constitutional power (specifically granted to him under Article V, Section 11 if you’re wondering…) to pardon the dog forever from the crimes he was accused of.

And LePage did just that. This caught many Mainers, myself included, off guard, as Paul LePage is known for his support for giving drug dealers and murderers the death penalty (which is nonexistent in Maine). LePage also cracked a joke in a radio interview that the original owner, not the dog, should be put down.

While LePage’s efforts to save Dakota seem to be in vain, with a state judge declaring the governor unable to pardon pets, it is worth noting how he is the manifestation of how many people feel about animals versus humans. For while LePage is known for his vulgarity, from his comments on the nature of drug dealers in Maine (more on that never) to the profane voicemail he left for a state legislator (which is available on YouTube), he apparently has a soft spot for the plight of dogs.

The overriding of an executive’s actions by the judiciary is not new; in fact, on the federal level, judges have (for now, anyway) blocked Trump’s various Muslim-targeted travel bans. Neither is the penchant for odd news spreading like wildfire among Mainers, common folk and politicians alike.

What is new is our increasing empathy for animals, from huskies to African savannah elephants, and our strengthening desire to help them. Park rangers in central Africa die on a yearly basis just to save rhinos and elephants, while millions of people will eagerly vent about Seaworld on social media (even while they scroll past UNICEF refugee ads).

In the olden days, when horses were the trucks and tanks of human societies, putting down a sick horse wasn’t much different than scrapping a broken car is today. Now governors will actually pardon homicidal dogs from death while advocating for the legal slaying of homicidal people.

While I believe being empathetic to animals makes us more emotionally intelligent, let us not forget to also be emotionally intelligent to the sufferings of our fellow humans. Otherwise, I’ll have to continuously update the Nest on new odd happenings in Maine.

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Man’s best friend on trial