Mat-Su Borough: Dog was a danger to the public

A spokeswoman for the Mat-Su Borough issued the following statement on Thursday following a statement by musher Jake Berkowitz accusing the shelter of inhumane treatment of his sled dog, Wizard:

When a dog is recommended to be classified at a level 5, Borough Code requires the dog be held at the Animal Shelter. Wizard is in a separate kennel with eight other dogs and two puppies in the same quarantine room. Most dogs in quarantine are fed twice a day. Wizard is fed each morning six cups of special food given to the shelter by his owner at his owner's request. Wizard has water and a toy in his kennel. The kennel is kept clean by volunteers. A window allows sunlight into the room.

The children of Borough Veterinarian Katrina Zwolinski in no way antagonized nor provoked Wizard in this quarantine room. The children were there to see the puppies. No Borough policies were violated.

Dr. Zwolinski has devoted her life to helping animals. Some of her own pets at home are broken animals that most people would not adopt.

The attack on the toddler in the dog lot showed that Wizard has a heightened predatory instinct. The dog broke its restraint and lunged at the girl, nearly taking off her ear. The dog then grabbed the toddler by the throat and shook her. After the mother fought off the dog, Wizard circled the mother and tried dragging the child away by her clothes. The child lost 2/3s of her blood, her jugular vein was severed.

No evidence was presented that the 2-year-old provoked the dog. Instead the dog broke its restraint and came into the path and attacked the little girl.

The Animal Care Board did conclude by a majority that all criteria for a Level 5 classification of Wizard had been met.

The Board was unable to reach a majority decision on finding an exception.

An exception would have excused the dog's behavior and reduced its level of classification. And this was not found. So while the Board deadlocked 2-2, Borough attorneys argued the Borough did not excuse the dog's behavior and the dog remains classified at a level 5.

Level 5 animals are deemed too dangerous for the public and are euthanized.

Attorneys on both sides are arranging a time for Wizard to be euthanized this week by the owner's vet.

The Animal Care Shelter under the leadership of Dr. Zwolinski delivers great care to animals. An average of 1,071 hours each month are given by volunteers, making this shelter a community animal center more than a government facility. The facility itself is new and uplifting in its architecture and natural light.

It is not acceptable, nor true that all sled dog lots are inherently dangerous places for children. Many sled dog kennels in the Mat-Su have healthy, socialized dogs that greet tourists and give children sled dog rides.

When a dog inflicts such trauma on a small child with no cause, it is too dangerous to live among the public. The risk cannot be taken a second time.