A Doberman pinscher on death row in the Davis County Animal Shelter was given a court-ordered stay of execution Tuesday as a 2nd District judge ordered a hearing to determine if the animal is vicious.
Judge Douglas L Cornaby set a March 15 hearing to determine if Zeus, a 2-year-old male Doberman kept by Kaysville residents Tom and Maryann Mickelson, falls under the definition of vicious as outlined in the county's animal control ordinance.Zeus has been scheduled to be put to sleep twice since being picked up running loose in Kaysville Dec. 14. The first euthanization was delayed at the request of Kaysville City Attorney Felshaw King to allow the dog's owners to consult a lawyer.
The second euthanization was delayed when the Mickelsons' attorney obtained a temporary restraining order from Cornaby blocking the action. At Tuesday's hearing, Cornaby ruled the restraining order will remain in effect until the March hearing, which attorneys said could run all day.
Zeus and Amber, a second female Doberman kept by the Mickelsons, have sharply divided neighbors in Kaysville. Zeus has also become somewhat of a media star, his photo appearing in newspapers and television camera crews filming him in his death row holding pen at the pound.
According to animal control director DeAnne Hess, Zeus and Amber have been the subject of numerous complaints by Kaysville residents. The dogs get loose frequently and menace adults and children, Hess said.
In court Tuesday, Hess said Zeus is responsible for two documented biting incidents, which she characterized as non-serious.
Zeus and Amber were first picked up by animal control officers in August 1988 when they were running loose while the Mickelsons were out of town, according to Hess. The two were declared potentially dangerous under the county's animal control ordinance.
The two were picked up again in November after another incident, Hess said, and declared dangerous with the Mickelsons told to keep them in a locked kennel with a roof and allow them out only when they are muzzled and on a leash.
After they were picked up again Dec. 14, a hearing was held and Zeus was declared vicious and ordered put to death, Hess said. But it was determined in the same hearing that Amber was not vicious, and she was released.
The death sentence for Zeus stirred his defenders, one of whom is Rev. R.W. Cates of the Universal Brothers of Christ Church in Syracuse. Cates presented the Kaysville City Council with a petition bearing several hundred names, asking that Zeus be spared.
Zeus is friendly and wants only to play with people, Cates said, claiming that Zeus actually smiles at people - earning the dog the nickname "The Grinning Doberman."
Not so, responded other neighbors, who in a letter to the editor of a weekly newspaper outlined numerous incidents over the past two years in which they say Zeus and Amber threatened and attacked both adults and children.
The letter, written anonymously, said a young boy walking to school was bitten, chased into his yard and bitten again. The letter cited an incident in which a woman and her 12-year-old daughter were forced to take refuge from the two animals on the hood of their car.
"The owners of these dogs have not been around to see these things going on," the neighbors wrote. "They have been unavailable because they travel out of town. Since they are not around, the neighbors have been left to deal with the dogs. Neighbors have been more than courteous. They have pitched in to feed and water the dogs when the animals had none. They have taken turns catching the dogs and putting them into their own yard, without calling Animal Control every time. And neighbors have put up with many days and nights of whining, howling, and barking dogs."
The Mickelsons maintain Zeus actually belongs to their son and in court Tuesday offered to remove the dog from Kaysville, saying it would be kept in Hyrum.
But attorney Glen Cella, speaking for Kaysville, said that is not acceptable. The offer has been made before, Cella said, but the dog keeps turning up in Kaysville.
And, Cella argued, exporting a dog that has been declared vicious to another community could result in liability to Kaysville and the county if the dog attacks someone in Hyrum.
"We want the dog euthanized," Cella said.
"How far is this thing going to go?" asked the judge, when the attorneys began listing witnesses they plan to call at the March hearing, indicating it will stretch into a full day. "Are you going to take this thing all the way to federal court?"