Lino Lakes dog has his day in Minn's high court - and loses

  • Article by: ABBY SIMONS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 20, 2012 - 10:44 AM

State Supreme Court ruled that Lino Lakes acted properly in ordering that oft-biting Lab be put down.

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Time appears to be short for Brody, a Lino Lakes mixed breed dog. The Minnesota Supreme Court overturned the Appeals Court Wednesday, ruling that Lino Lakes was right to decide to destroy him for being dangerous.

A four-year-old Labrador mix dog that bit three people in six months faces near-certain death after an unusual Minnesota Supreme Court ruling that the dog is dangerous and should be destroyed.

Mitchell Sawh said he is devastated by the unanimous high-court decision that the city of Lino Lakes has the right to determine when a dog is dangerous and acted properly in ordering Brody's death.

Sawh maintains his dog isn't vicious, and that the bites resulted from misunderstandings when the dog was either startled or trying to protect its family. He said he has begged city officials to let him move the dog out of Lino Lakes, and has contacted legislators to see if they can help before time runs out for Brody, who has been confined in a local pound during the two-year legal battle.

"I'm hoping someone can intervene," Sawh said. "I'm trying to keep hope alive."

James Mongé III, a League of Minnesota Cities attorney who represented Lino Lakes, said the decision makes clear that the city's policies -- similar to those in many Minnesota cities -- were fair when they provided Sawh two separate hearings to challenge orders that first deemed Brody dangerous, then ordered him destroyed.

"The decision makes clear that cities have a compelling interest in ensuring the health and safety of their citizens, and that dangerous animals are a threat," he said.

According to the Supreme Court opinion, the first incident occurred in April 2010 when Brody bit someone walking past Sawh's home.

A community service officer deemed Brody "potentially dangerous" and sent a letter to Sawh's home warning that future bites or attacks could result in a "dangerous" designation or orders for Brody's destruction. The following October, Brody bit a neighbor who had stopped by Sawh's lawn to visit with his wife. The city then deemed Brody a "dangerous animal" and ordered his removal from the city.

Sawh appealed and challenged the designation, arguing that Brody was a friendly dog and was not dangerous or aggressive. The City Council unanimously voted to uphold the "dangerous" ruling.

The day after the hearing, Brody bit a furniture delivery man who walked into the Sawhs' basement to view the potential location for a sofa. The police seized Brody and ordered him put down, citing a city ordinance that orders any dog that bites after being deemed dangerous shall be "destroyed in a proper and humane manner."

Sawh again appealed to the city, which again upheld its ruling.

Sawh then challenged the decision to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, which ruled that his rights were violated when he wasn't allowed to challenge the first "potentially dangerous" designation and reversed the "dangerous" designation and the order to destroy Brody.

However, the dog remained impounded while the city of Lino Lakes appealed to the state Supreme Court.

In siding with the city, the court ruled that because the first "potentially dangerous" designation did not result in the city's taking Brody from Sawh, he was not entitled to any challenge of the ruling.

The purpose of the designation "is simply to put owners on notice of their animal's dangerous tendencies." Justice David Stras wrote.

Sawh, an engineer for the city of Minneapolis, said his family, including wife and two grown children, will be devastated by the news.

He said he has contacted politicians, including U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, and will reiterate an offer to the city to return the dog to New York, where he first got Brody as a puppy.

Sawh said he had hoped to bring Brody home, but he's satisfied now with simply finding a way to let him live.

"For him to get the death penalty now," Sawh said, "is so sad, so sad."

Abby Simons • 612-673-4921

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