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Charges dropped in pit bull case; 25 to be euthanized
By Bill Novak

Of the 47 pit bulls seized in a drug raid last summer and confined since then at the Dane County Humane Society, 25 of the dogs are considered a threat and will be killed, officials say.

At least nine of the dogs will be returned to owners Robert Lowery and Julie Dzikowich as part of a settlement reached Monday that dropped dog-fighting charges against the couple.

In turn, a civil suit filed by Lowery and Dzikowich against Dane County and the Humane Society demanding the return of the pit bulls is being dismissed.

Humane Society staff will determine where to place the remaining 13 dogs.

Photo by Mike DeVries/The Capital Times
One of 47 impounded pit bulls greets a visitor last June at the Dane County Humane Society.
"This gives us our ending," said Humane Society board president Cathy Holmes.

"Now we have something we can move forward with."

The pit bulls have been locked up in isolated cages at the Humane Society's shelter on Voges Road for the past 8 months, waiting day after day for some resolution to the case.

The civil suit ended when District Attorney Brian Blanchard dropped the charges of three counts each of instigating dog fights against Lowery, 58, and Dzikowich, 48, mainly because Lowery is currently awaiting sentencing on federal drug trafficking charges while being treated for cancer at a federal prison hospital in North Carolina.

Under the terms of the settlement, nine of the 47 pit bulls deemed "friendly" by Humane Society dog behavioralists will be returned to Dzikowich; of the 38 that will stay at the shelter, 13 will be evaluated to see if they are friendly enough to be turned over to either a pit bull rescue organization or an animal sanctuary.

Holmes said that the 25 dogs deemed a threat to public safety "will be euthanized for sure."

"Seven of the 13 left are pretty friendly and we'll move forward right away to give them to rescue or sanctuary, while the other six will go under more intense evaluation," she added.

Attorney Charles Giesen represented the couple in the civil suit trial, which started last week and was supposed to only last for two days, but lengthy testimony pushed the trial into this week and three extra days were also selected in March if the trial would have lasted that long.

"This could have gone on for many more months," Giesen said today. "That wasn't fair to the dogs. They haven't been convicted of a crime, anywhere."

Giesen talked to Lowery about the settlement before it was agreed upon.

Lowery "felt it was extremely inhumane to keep the dogs confined to their small kennels," Giesen said. "That was one of the motivations to settle this."

The 47 pit bulls have been locked up in individual cages and kennels for 230 days, ever since they were seized June 14, 2006, from Lowery's town of Dunn farm during the raid by federal drug enforcement agents.

The Humane Society estimated it was costing about $6,000 a week to care for the pit bulls. The total bill up to this point is about $220,000.

The Humane Society wanted the couple to pay at least part of the bill, but Holmes said the settlement releases Lowery and Dzikowich from having to pay the shelter's costs for taking care of the dogs.

Dane County committed $100,000 in the 2007 county budget to help the shelter with the extra expense, but Holmes said it's still undetermined how the bulk of the pit bull bill will be paid.

"We'll sit down with the county and figure out how it's paid for," she said. "It was more important to end things now than to quibble about the money."

Holmes said she's disappointed any of the 47 pit bulls were being released to Dzikowich, but felt safeguards being put in place for the dogs will assure the dogs won't be involved in any dog-fighting activity or bred for fighting.

Four of the dogs being released showed no signs of fighting and the other five will be spayed or neutered, vaccinated and implanted with microchips before being given back to Dzikowich.

"Our goal is to have these dogs live the life of a family pet," Holmes said.

With the clock ticking on the dangerous dogs, however, the shelter is considering beefing up security just in case
anybody has an idea of trying to "rescue" the dogs from the shelter.

"Security could be a concern when we start euthanizing the dogs," Holmes said. "We plan on continuing to have a security guard on site at least through February."

The Humane Society has a new contract this year with Dane County, with one major change being the shelter is no longer considered a permanent impound for animals seized by humane officers.

"We can find a much better solution than having dogs go through something like this," she said. "We have to make sure this doesn't happen again."

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