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Court saves the life of malamute; After attack alleged, board had ordered Sunny killed.

Byline: Paula J. Owen

LEOMINSTER - One-year-old Alaskan malamute Sunny has been given a second chance at life following the decision in Leominster District Court yesterday to overturn the Princeton Board of Selectmen's decision to have him killed.

Leo J. Montagna, of Princeton, Sunny's owner, said he will do everything in his power to see that Sunny is obedient and under control.

"I am just so happy and so grateful for all the help and support I have got," Mr. Montagna said yesterday after hearing about the decision. "I want to thank everyone that has supported me. It has been a terrible, trying time. It has been awful."

Sunny and his owner have been separated for months following the Board of Selectmen's decision Dec. 8 to kill the dog, against the recommendations of animal behaviorist Philip W. Bolack, a certified dog trainer from Sterling.

Selectmen told

Mr. Montagna to hire an animal expert to evaluate Sunny following a complaint made of an alleged unprovoked attack on neighbor Alwin J. Haase, 40 Bigelow Road, Nov. 3. Mr. Haase said the dog knocked him down from behind and bit his arms and legs and scratched his back.

The dog also allegedly bit someone at Mr. Montagna's business, Lee Plastics in Sterling, Oct. 29. However, under the law, selectmen could only consider the Nov. 3 incident in making their decision.

Selectmen told Mr. Montagna to report to the animal control officer within 24 hours of the initial dog hearing in November that Sunny was in a safe, secure area and that Mr. Montagna had made an appointment with a certified animal behaviorist to evaluate Sunny's temperament and "trainability."

On Dec. 8, Mr. Bolack said Sunny made "no overt aggressive move" toward him during his evaluation and that he was "clearly not an aggressive dog." His recommendations included that both dog and owner go through training, Sunny be neutered and Mr. Montagna install a fence to keep Sunny contained.

Sunny has been staying with Mr. Montagna's sister in Hubbardston, but will move back home in the next few days, Mr. Montagna said.

"This has hurt Sunny as much as it has hurt me," he said. "Animals are real as well. I am just very happy the outcome came down as it did and I want to assure those that were opposed that I am not irresponsible and I will do everything in my power to keep Sunny under control and obedient."

Mr. Montagna's lawyer, Richard A. Mulhearn from Worcester, said the town has 10 days to appeal the court's decision, but he hopes the town will let it go.

"This gives Sunny a second chance and Leo a second chance to show he is responsible and will prevent this from happening again," Mr. Mulhearn said.

He added that even though there are no limitations or restrictions given in the court's decision, Mr. Montagna still plans to follow through with Mr. Bolack's recommendations, including neutering and training. A fence has already been erected, he said.

Selectman Raymond M. Dennehy III said he does not think the town will appeal.

"We have to meet and talk about it, but I don't think we are going to appeal," he said. "We made our decision and I am very comfortable with it. I guess the dog's actions lay with the courts now. It is out of my hands."

ART: PHOTO

PHOTOG: FILE PHOTO

CUTLINE: The order from the Board of Selectmen to kill Alaskan malamute Sunny was overturned in Leominster District Court yesterday.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Feb 14, 2009
Words:584
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