Fighting for man's best friend

As any dog owner will tell you, there's almost no limit some people will go to fight for man's best friend.

In the case of Peter and Jennifer Madsen and their three children, the battle over the last 15 months to save their Alaskan Malamute Shadow has cost them tens of thousands of dollars, not to mention the frustration and anguish of knowing that if they lose this fight, Shadow will lose her life.

The Madsens were back in court earlier this week, defending the RDCO Dog Control claims that Shadow, while roaming free on March 26, 2011, attacked a woman in Lake Country who was walking her dog and bit her in the back of the leg.

The RDCO's stance is the dog should be euthanized.

The court case is now on hiatus until November with Shadow's fate hanging in the balance.

Peter Madsen says they've got the wrong dog.

"She approached this lady who was walking her dog. The lady kicked her in the head and then her dog basically went off."

Madsen says the lady's German Shepherd then attacked Shadow. It was during the ensuing battle that the woman was bit in the back of a leg. Madsen argues that witnesses to the event say that Shadow never got behind the woman.

The Madsens were travelling at the time of the incident, but later learned that the RCMP thought that Shadow posed no danger and asked one of the witnesses, who was familiar with Shadow, to take the dog home. Madsen was also told that the police believed the bite was caused by the lady's dog and not Shadow.

Dog expert Brad Pattison says with his 25 years of experience has shown him the police's initial assessment was right.

"When people get bit if they're breaking up a dog fight, nine times out of 10 they're bit by their own dogs."

The Madsens returned home assuming the incident was behind them. But it was far from over.

"32 days later, they make a call to dog control asking for our personal information so they can start a civil litigation against us. So dog control talks to her, and three days later, May 1, they came up and illegally seized Shadow without a court order...in front of our only son. They wouldn't even let him say good-bye."

Madsen also alleges the dog control officer suggested that Madsen let him put the dog down that day and worry about fighting the forthcoming civil action.

Since that day, Shadow has been held in a small pen, surrounded by concrete and chain link fence, and is granted only a limited amount of time for exercise.

"She's in a five by 10 concrete cell, 23 and a half hours a day. We're allowed to see her once a week for half an hour."

Pattison argues the small holding cell is an inhumane way to keep a dog. He says the presumption of guilt leads to the mistreatment of animals.

"When dogs are locked up for a long period of time, like the 15 months it has been, this will bring depression into the dog's world. If a dog doesn't have proper care, socialization and interaction, with some dogs you can break their spirit. The people may get their dog back and the dog is completely different, more broken, more depressed, it's shattered. I find that to be extremely inhumane. This dog, like so many other dogs, are guilty until proven innocent," says Pattison.

Madsen is especially frustrated by the stance taken by dog control, since all the witnesses, with the exception of the lady who says she was attacked, say Shadow had not been aggressive throughout the incident.

Also, Madsen paid to have a dog assessment done, and Madsen says their expert has proven that Shadow is not an aggressive animal.

For their part, the Regional District is saying little about the case.

Bruce Smith, Communications & Intergovernmental Affairs Officer for the RDCO says as the case is adjourned and still before the court it is inappropriate for them to comment.

He added that the incident was first reported to the Regional District on April 27th and Dog Control seized the dog under the Community Charter on May 1, 2011 and the dog has been cared for in the pound since then.

Also, Smith says several months ago, the Regional District tried to get a court approved consent order to release the dog to the owners to ensure public safety, but was unable to reach an agreement with the owners.

In the meantime, the Maddens will go to court to try and get an interim release for Shadow until the court makes its final decision. On July 30 they will appear in front of the same provincial court judge who was hearing the case.

The family also recently created a Facebook page to allow people to express their support for Shadow. Support is also building in our Forums.

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