It’s a story perfectly suited for Law & Order: Canine Unit. Jeb, a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois, acts as a service dog to an elderly veteran, Kenneth Job.
He was accused of killing a neighbor’s dog and sentenced to death by a St. Clair, Michigan judge. The Job family demanded a DNA test of the evidence and after 9 weeks in a tiny cage, Jeb was exonerated.
The ordeal began on August 24, 2016, when Christopher Sawa found his 14-pound Pomeranian, Vlad lifeless in the backyard with Jeb standing over the body. Mr. Job admitted that Jeb got away from him that morning, but refused to believe that his gentle service companion could harm another animal. The Jobs have 3 other dogs, 7 cats, and a coop full of chickens that Jeb has never disturbed.
Mr. Sawa was adamant about pressing charges, and Jeb was taken in by animal control. The “trial” to determine whether or not Jeb was a “dangerous animal” and deserving of death was held on September 19. After testimony from both sides, Judge Michael Hulewicz determined that Jeb was guilty despite a lack of physical evidence, and sentenced him to be destroyed.
The Jobs were not ready to quit on the young rescue dog who had already overcome the loss of his first owner before they adopted him. They requested that Vlad’s wounds be swabbed for DNA and compared to Jeb’s own cheek swabs. They happily paid the $416 DNA processing cost and on October 24 they received the results. Jeb was NOT guilty of killing Vlad!
The Job family brought Jeb home a week after the DNA results came in, but they say he is no longer the dog he once was. He lost 15 pounds while in the care of animal control and now acts skittish and frightened around strange men.
A representative for the St. Clair County sheriff’s office, stated that Jeb was fed once a day during his 9 weeks in custody and allowed out of his 6-foot by 3-1/2-foot kennel for one hour each day. Even more disturbing than Jeb’s behavioral changes is the fact that the Jobs had to ask the court to perform the DNA test in order to clear his name.
In Michigan – as most states – dogs are considered personal property and not given the right to due process like a human suspect. The good news is that DNA can be used as a tool to help dogs in Jeb’s situation. The bad news is that not all pet owners know they have this option.
Do you think DNA testing should be made mandatory in cases like Jeb’s where a dog is facing death?