From the Gray Lady [and that would be the NY Times, thank you very much]:
It’s man versus beast in Princeton, and the town is in an uproar over a dog on death row.
The curious case of Congo, an 85-pound German shepherd sentenced to die for attacking a Honduran landscaper, is making its way through New Jersey’s courts. Protesters have packed the courtrooms here and have staged rallies waving signs that say “Free Congo!” And the landscaper, Giovanni Rivera, who suffered a six-inch bite wound and other injuries, has been vilified by some of the dog’s supporters in this well-to-do Ivy League town, who have been sending newspapers and blogs angry anti-immigrant slurs.
State Assemblyman Neil M. Cohen, a Democrat from Union, has introduced legislation, which he calls Congo’s Law, that could spare the life of Congo and other dogs in similar situations by giving judges more discretion in meting out punishment.
And now, thousands of people from Princeton and elsewhere are petitioning the governor for a pardon. (There is precedent for such things in New Jersey.)
So shoot me, but the whole "Save Congo" outpouring of public sympathy reminds me more and more of the efforts a few years ago to "Save Max."
NEARLY six months after he was sentenced to death by the Watertown animal control officer for biting a child, Max the golden retriever was lying on his back like a baby in the arms of Audrey McKay, the animal control officer in New Milford, luxuriating between belly rubs and doggy treats.
''He's ferocious, let me tell you,'' Ms. McKay said facetiously as the 16-month-old dog looked up and licked her chin.
The pending execution of Max has Watertown in an uproar, with his family and their supporters from several states signing a petition to save the dog. Earlier this month, there was a rally for Max on the town green of neighboring Litchfield and the head of the national animal rights organization, Last Chance for Animals, came in from California on Monday to assist the family. Even the governor has written a letter of support (he doesn't have the power to commute the sentence).Escaping Execution (Amid Wags and Cheers):
Thousands of letters and e-mail messages poured in supporting the return of Max to his family, especially after he passed several animal behavior tests proving him to be a safe and gentle pet. ''Save Max'' signs were posted in pet stores, on front lawns and on vehicles around the state, and rallies for the dog were held on various village greens.For a Dog, Another Attack on a Child Was One Too Many:
For months, the town remained firm in its stance to euthanize the dog, but pleas for mercy from Gov. John Rowland and the national animal rights organization Last Chance for Animals, helped change the course. After a formal hearing by the State Department of Agriculture, Richard Blumenthal, the state attorney general, mediated an agreement on June 17 between the town and the Pyons to spare the dog's life and have him returned home.
WHEN Max, a 2-year-old golden retriever who lived in Watertown, was happy, his whole body would wiggle when his tail wagged. Like many dogs, he was a face licker and a ball chaser, and it was his gentle, joyful demeanor that persuaded so many people, including the attorney general and the former governor, to come to his defense when the town's animal control officer said the dog was dangerous and must be destroyed after seriously biting a boy in 2003.
And a more succinct headline from the local NBC affiliate: Max The Dog Put Down After Mauling Another Child.
I'd be less worried about Congo biting again if his owners had a better record of keeping their dogs on their property, and if they had bothered to have their dogs vaccinated for rabies, and if they hadn't bred Congo at... what, a year of age? He was 18 months old at the time of the attack, with six-month-old pups, oy.
Years ago I owned a German shepherd that looked quite a bit like Congo. Mine was a dark sable with a great heart and a bold, fearless temperament: she was a Bodo vom Lierberg granddaughter, bred by Margaret Pooley of the old Rocky Reach Kennels. I'd give a lot to have another GSD like her. That may be one reason Congo's owners offend me so much: I think he deserves better. To me, Congo and his owners reflect what the ASPCA's Randall Lockwood calls "a perfect storm of bad human-canine interactions -- the wrong dog, the wrong background, the wrong history in the hands of the wrong person in the wrong environmental situation."