Embattled shelter dog spared

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MOUNT VERNON (AP) -- An Ohio shelter dog that became the center of a recent controversy after he nipped a little girl's hand has been saved from being euthanized.

Fletch, a 2-year-old medium-sized mixed-breed dog, was spared this week after Knox County authorities in central Ohio came to agreement with animal advocates fighting to save the spotted brown Labrador-like pooch.

It all began in mid-March when Fletch nipped a girl while they were playing at the Knox County Animal Shelter in Mount Vernon, where he had been staying for seven months.

The girl was not hurt but the shelter's dog warden, Jordan Bernard, decided to euthanize Fletch for being too aggressive.

That set off a series of passionate rallies and angry social media posts involving members of the community and outraged shelter volunteers who disagreed with Bernard's decision, according to the Mansfield News Journal (http://ohne.ws/1fOJkkj).

Among those volunteers was Cody Jackson, 41, who had been planning to adopt Fletch all along with his daughters, ages 7 and 1, but was just waiting for paperwork to go through on his new home.

After Bernard ordered Fletch euthanized, Jackson filed an injunction to block the dog from being put down.

The case dragged on for weeks, partially because Jackson initially filed the injunction in the wrong court.

Before a Tuesday hearing about Fletch's fate, about 50 people gathered in front of the Knox County Court of Common Pleas in support of saving him and later packed the courtroom.

Judge Otho Eyster cautioned against any outbursts.

"Let's maintain some decorum, no cheering, no booing, no chest-bumping," he said. "This is not a town hall meeting."

Eyster dismissed the case with prejudice, meaning it can't be refiled, after Knox County Prosecutor John Thatcher told him that he had reached an agreement with Jackson's attorney, Dianne Burris, following a week of negotiations.

Under the agreement, Fletch will go to the Tank Fund, a nonprofit animal welfare organization that will give Fletch training before he goes to the Jackson family.

"It did take longer than most people wanted it to take, but we did get this resolved," Thatcher said after the court hearing.

As the case was pending, county commissioner's suspended the shelter's volunteer program, citing the "volatility of the situation, false accusations and pending legal action."

Thatcher said he has nothing to do with the volunteer program or its future but offered an opinion.

"It seems steps need to be taken to re-establish public trust," he said.

After Tuesday's court hearing, Judge Eyster injected some humor into what has been a tense situation. He emerged from chambers with a toy dog on a leash that danced to the music of "Tequila."

Eyster picked the dog up and placed it on a table.

"We don't normally put him on the furniture, but this is a special day," the judge said.

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Information from: News Journal, http://www.mansfieldnewsjournal.com

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