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Dakota is a lucky dog.
She apparently is the first dog in the United States to be granted a pardon by a sitting governor. Gov. Paul LePage of Maine spared the Husky, who had been sentenced to die for killing another dog.
Dakota had escaped from her owner, killed a small dog, and was picked up by animal control. A local district attorney brought the matter to court, and a judge ordered she be euthanized. The local Humane Society notified the governor, who stepped in.
"I have reviewed the facts of this case and I believe the dog ought to be provided a full and free pardon," LePage said in a statement.
Dakota had been aggressive in the past but had changed by the time she turned up at the Humane Society, the governor's office said. She was "a model resident, extremely friendly, social with other dogs and easy to handle."
The governor, who is a dog owner himself, has spared Dakota for now but a judge will decide whether the pardon power extends to a dog. In the meantime, the case has raised awareness about the evolution of animal rights in America.
"There's been a lot of recent development in science and cognitive studies of animals and animals' brains, and those studies have shown that animals have intentionality and they have emotions like regret," said Sarah Schindler, a law professor at the University of Maine School of Law. "It just goes to show that most people do view animals as more than their property."
The President ceremoniously pardons a turkey each Thanksgiving, but the governor's pardon is unprecedented. Dmitry Bam, an associate professor at the University of Maine School of Law, said the state constitution gives the governor "fairly extensive pardon and commutation power."
The state constitution does not explicitly say whether the power applies to humans or animals or both. While pardoning Dakota, however, the governor said that the dog owners had not been given due process because they did not know about the court hearing that resulted in the order to euthanize.
Judge Valerie Stanfill had scheduled a status conference in the case, but it has been continued. According to local reports, it may go to the state's supreme court.
In 1984, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court upheld a euthanasia order of a bull mastiff named Tucker that killed a neighbor's poodle. Animal advocates kidnapped Tucker two days before his execution, however.
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