Friday, March 21, 2014

Being Railroaded

On the morning of May 2, 2013, on her farm in Lambertville, Michigan, Stephanie Sonnenberg swears that she saw two dogs kill two show pigs inside her barn.  Sonnenberg says one dog attacked her, but she was able to defend herself with a wooden board and overpower the dog, holding it for animal control.  One dog is a husky, weighing in at 60 pounds.  The other is a husky mix, weighing about 30 pounds.  The two pigs weigh approximately 100 pounds each.  The two dogs are owned by Janni Juhasz who resides just across the border in Ohio.

By Michigan law, the dogs must be destroyed and Sonnenberg must be compensated for her loss.  Sonnenberg claims the pigs were worth $45,000, or about $225 per pound.  Another source states that Sonnenberg was offered $9,000 ($45 per pound) and turned it down.  These appear to be pretty expensive show pigs.

The first time I read about this insanity I wrote it off as just another filler for the birdcage liner, but then I got to thinking.  Pigs are tough customers and have an irascible disposition.  They are not anything close to Arnold from Green Acres.  If the dogs actually did mix it up with the pigs, why aren't the dogs all torn up?  As it turns out, I'm not the only one asking that question.  Keep reading to see the latest news.

The two dogs, Nala and Bugger, are sitting in the Monroe County Dog Catcher's jail waiting to be killed.  The owners are upset and doing everything they can to save their dogs, and the Bedford Township government doesn't want to hear about it.  I note that the owner of the dogs, Janni Juhasz, is an Ohio resident and Stephanie Sonnenberg, the bitch with the pork, is not.  I also note that it's likely that the Sylvania Township and Bedford Township governments are not always on good terms with each other.

After perusing a few articles on local news sites, I found the following.  Warning: If you follow the North Country Gazette links you get one bite at the apple and that's it.  The Gazette has some sort of subscription requirement going on that I don't fully understand.

Credibility Issues Dog Sonnenberg, Michigan Pig Owner By North Country Gazette On March 11, 2014
Sonnenberg’s claim to the insurance company is that in the morning she shut and secured the barn doors, and in the evening when she came back out – the doors were shut and secured.
The dogs weigh a total of 90 pounds between the two of them. The pigs totaled over 200 pounds.
A necropsy was never performed. The time or even day of death was never established to validate the claims being made to threaten the lives of the family pet dogs. The responding officer, an animal control officer employed by Monroe County for which Sonnenberg’s attorney, J. Harvey Lievens is a county commissioner and thus the employer of the ACO, could not state as to when the pigs died.
Michigan Dog Case Goes To Appeals
A judge in Monroe County Circuit Court on Tuesday issued a temporary stay of execution for two Sylvania Township dogs that were found guilty of killing pigs. The action allows their owners to take the case to the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Expert Casts Doubt On Dogs’ Convictions
A forensic bite specialist says there is not enough evidence to prove that two Sylvania Township dogs accused of killing two show-quality pigs across the state line in Michigan were responsible for the animals’ deaths.
Forensic Expert: Nala, Bugger Didn’t Kill Sonnenberg Pigs By North Country Gazette On March 10, 2014
A forensic odontolgist with impeccable credentials says that Nala and Bugger, two dogs on death row in Monroe County for allegedly killing two show hogs, did not render any mortal wounds to the swine owned by Stephanie Sonnenberg as she claims.
While there’s no doubt that the pigs are dead, Dr. Kenneth Cohrn of Lady Lake, Fla., chief forensic odontologist for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for District Five, says the dogs didn’t kill the pigs and has placed his expert opinion in an written report released Monday.

Pig Death Incident Report from Kenneth Cohrn
There are no specific recognizable bite marks that might be attributable to the dogs.
In addition, I see no evidence in the photos or in the report of injuries to the dogs. The pigs would have defended themselves in an attack.
If the pigs were secure in an enclosed environment how did the dogs get in and out of the pen?
There was no necropsy preformed by a veterinarian or a pathologist to determine the cause and manner of death.

Therefore, based on the evidence provided to me, with the cause and manner of death not established by a necropsy or veterinarian,the lack of any identifiable bite marks, unverifiable circumstantial evidence, other possible scenarios, the link between the pig deaths and injuries and the two dogs is problematic.
The question becomes now what?  Given the evidence it would seem that the dogs should be returned and the owner of the pigs can go file a claim with her own insurance company.  This case is being appealed, so we'll see what happens.


CWMartin said...

Unless those dogs were starved, they'd have had more brains than to take on two hogs. And if they were starved, they'd have been no match for them. I smell the hunt for an easy paycheck. And this is why Scrappy never goes out w/o the leash. Not that he'd ever attack anything, but he'll never get BLAMED for attacking anything.

Unknown said...

The proof is there DOGS DID NOT KILL THE PIGS this is from expert forensic report!!! Yes the dogs should be back home by now. Township should be accused of cruelty, negligence, abuse towards the owner and dogs also they are causing suffering imagine how she feels not able to see her babies since 10 months. What a shame!! Heartless people they have to release the dogs as soon as possible. With almost 50,000 signatures it should put a lot of pressure. Hope Nala and Bugger will be back home soon.

Old NFO said...

Yep, lots of things NOT right with this one... As a former owner of hog hunting dogs, there is no way in hell this happened.

Mad Jack said...

Thanks guys. This is what I was looking for - the voice of experience. My own experience with pigs is limited, but I have a lot of experience with dogs and there is no way in the world these dogs killed two pigs without sustaining so much as a scratch. Frankly, I don't think the dogs are a match for the pigs.

By all accounts there are sheep available on the same farm. I don't know if there's any poultry or not. Sheep, sure. Sheep are the dumbest critters in creation and they never fail to act like food on the hoof. Dogs will get after sheep in a second, providing they don't get sidetracked by chickens - another dog favorite.

Had Sonnenberg complained of sheep or chickens getting killed by the dogs, I wouldn't have much doubt about it. But pigs? No, not so much.

I think Sonnenberg thought this would be an open and shut case, and it keeps right on snowballing. Now they've got a forensic expert stating that the dogs didn't kill the pigs, and still the local government won't accept the facts or even question Sonnenberg under oath.

I'm thinking that this is all about insurance money.

Question: How much does a 100 pound 4-H hog cost to begin with? What's it worth at show time?

Mad Jack said...

And, by the way, CWMartin made a good point about Scrappy and dogs in general. Keep your dog with you all the time so that he's beyond reproach.

Not that Scrappy would do anything wrong, but not all dogs are as well-behaved.