Sun. Jun 20th, 2021

PIERRE, S.D. — Two Sully County Labradors that attacked and killed a neighboring corgi-mix last year will be euthanized, after the South Dakota Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling finding the animals to be “vicious” under state law.

Chief Justice Steven Jensen authored a unanimous opinion from the court, published on Thursday, April 29, that said the dog owners’ argument in court — that they’d not formally received a reprimand from the city prior to the February 2020 attack and therefore could not have their dogs put-down by the authorities under a city ordinance — did not preclude the Sully County sheriff under state law from disposing of the animals.

“Admittedly, this case is unique because the Sheriff wore two different hats as the City’s code enforcement officer and as the chief law enforcement officer within the county,” Jensen wrote.

The court said in addition to the city ordinance, a state “dangerous animal” statute also provides the sheriff legal authority to police vicious dogs.

The two black, Labrador-mix dogs, owned by Kassie Jean Brant and Tyce Bertram Meyer of Onida, S.D., had already attacked Mark and Fran McQuirk’s corgi-mix house dog one year prior to the fatal Feb. 6, 2020, attack, according to the court’s opinion. But Sheriff Bill Stahl said he’d attempted to “resolve the issues between the neighbors.”

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At a circuit court hearing following the 2020 attack, Stahl admitted he’d made a mistake in not previously declaring the dogs “vicious” under a city ordinance.

Brant and Meyer also pointed to a stipulation in the state’s dangerous animal statute requiring any formal declaration of viciousness to be accompanied by a rabies inspection by Department of Health officials. While Jensen acknowledged the absence of such a test, he called the mistake “harmless.”

The dogs, which have “remained kenneled during the litigation,” wrote Jensen, should be treated to “humane euthanasia.”

Of particular note to South Dakota court watchers, the attorney representing the City of Onida was Emily Sovell, the attorney leading prosecution against Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg for striking and killing a man along a roadside last fall.