A Kaysville Doberman pinscher's March 15 court hearing that could have meant the death penalty has been canceled by an agreement to take the dog out of state.
Zeus, who has been on death row in Davis County's animal control shelter since December, has been given a reprieve after his owners agreed to remove the dog from Utah and never bring him back, said Kaysville attorney Glen Cella.The 2-year-old Doberman male was declared vicious under the county's animal control ordinance last fall after he menaced several residents, including schoolchildren, when he escaped from the back yard of Tom and Maryann Mickelson.
Animal control officers found Zeus running loose again Dec. 14 and, under the vicious dog ordinance, scheduled Zeus for euthanasia. That was delayed once at the city attorney's request to allow the Mickelsons to consult an attorney.
A second euthanization was scheduled but blocked in February when the Mickelsons obtained a court order challenging the county's animal control ordinance. A hearing on the ordinance and to determine if Zeus fit the vicious dog criteria was scheduled for March 15 by Judge Douglas L Cornaby.
Zeus, meanwhile, became a media star, his photo appearing in newspapers and on television news broadcasts as supporters and opponents lined up.
Zeus supporters maintain the dog is friendly and only trying to play with people. One supporter, Rev. R.W. Cates of the universal Brothers of Christ Church in Syracuse, claimed in a petition that Zeus actually smiles at people, earning the dog the nickname of "The Grinning Doberman."
Neighbors and nearby residents had less kind names for Zeus, however, and court officials, noting the number of scheduled executions that Zeus had dodged, nicknamed him "Zeus Bundy."
The settlement reached Monday has canceled Zeus's final execution hearing, Cella said. Under the agreement, the Mickelsons stipulate that Zeus is vicious, the county's animal control ordinance is valid, and Kaysville, which contracts for animal control services from the county, is released from any liability, Cella said.
In return, the Mickelsons agree to remove the dog from the state, Cella said, adding he is prevented under the agreement from saying where Zeus will go.
According to animal control director DeAnne Hess, Zeus and a female Doberman, Amber, were first picked up by animal control officers in August 1988 when they were running loose while the Mickelsons were out of town. The two dogs, she said, were menacing and threatening neighbors and were declared potentially dangerous.
The two were picked up again in November, after another incident, and declared dangerous, Hess said. Zeus is responsible for two documented bite incidents, Hess said, characterizing them as non-serious.
But under the dangerous dog provision in the ordinance, the Mickelsons were required to keep the two animals in a roofed kennel and allow them out only on a leash and muzzled.
When Zeus and Amber were picked up again Dec. 14, a hearing on their status was held. Zeus was declared vicious and scheduled for euthanasia, but Amber was determined not to be vicious and was eventually released.
The ownership of Zeus was also an issue. The Mickelsons claim they were only keeping Zeus and Amber for their son, who lives in Hyrum. They offered to send Zeus back to Hyrum but Cella said that was not an acceptable offer, that Zeus had been removed before but kept turning up back in Kaysville.
That offer also generated a letter of protest from a Hyrum resident, who wrote to Cornaby that she viewed the offer "with horror."
"When are the people down south going to quit dumping their damn dogs on us?" she asked, listing a number of incidents in which "refugee dogs" from Davis and Weber counties had been dumped in their community, causing problems.