Family dog sentenced to death under archaic Utah law

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MURRAY, UT (May 24, 2017) -- Humane Society of Utah defends Santaquin family dog from death


A Santaquin, Utah family dog named Dexter has been sentenced to death under an archaic city ordinance. Dexter, a male 5-year-old Australian Shepherd, escaped the Bray family’s fenced backyard and allegedly bit a teenage girl. According to the police report, “the bite did not break any skin.” The Humane Society of Utah believes a death penalty is an overreaction based on the city ordinance’s broad definition of a vicious dog.


Under the Santaquin City ordinance, a vicious dog is defined as, “A dog that has bitten, clawed, attacked, chased, harassed, pursued, or worried a person without provocation.”


“This overly-broad definition is not in tune with other common ordinances,” said Gene Baierschmidt, HSU executive director. “We believe that this is an overreaction and the city cannot euthanize every dog or cat when it scratches somebody.”


The matter is now in the Fourth District Court in an appeal from the Santaquin Justice Court. The parties have agreed to dismiss the criminal action if the city council amends its ordinance at its meeting June 7, 2017.


Craig S. Cook, president and general counsel for the Humane Society of Utah has agreed to represent the Bray family in any city council and judicial proceedings, pro bono.


“It is hoped that the city council will amend its nineteenth-century ordinance to provide its citizens with full due process of law, to provide an acceptable definition of a ‘vicious’ animal and to further allow alternatives to the present mandatory death sentence,” said Cook.


The Humane Society of Utah believes that euthanasia or permanent confinement of the dog are extreme remedies and should be utilized only when the dog has attacked a person or companion animal without justification and has caused serious physical injury or death, or when a qualified behaviorist who has personally evaluated the dog determines that the dog poses a substantial risk of such behavior and that no other remedy will make the dog suitable to live safely with people.


Furthermore, the Humane Society of Utah advocates that in lieu of mandatory euthanasia in cases involving no serious injury, the courts in all jurisdictions should give the owner of a domestic pet the following alternatives.

  • Evaluation by a certified applied animal behaviorist or a board-certified veterinary behaviorist and completion of any training or other treatment as deemed appropriate by that expert.

  • Spaying or neutering.

  • Secure, humane confinement in a manner that prevents escape and unsupervised contact with the public, permits the dog adequate exercise and provides protection from the elements.

  • Direct supervision by an adult 18 years of age or older whenever the dog is on public property.

  • Restraint on a leash whenever the dog is in public.

  • Muzzling in public in a manner that prevents the dog from biting people and other animals but does not injure the dog or interfere with his vision or respiration.

  • Microchipping.