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Speechless: Two Dogs on Trial in Monroe, Michigan - UPDATE

By — One of many Dog Breeds blogs on

Photo Credit: ToledoBlade

Although sometimes we would like them to, pets cannot speak. They rely on us to interpret their needs and serve as their voices. Right now, two Siberian huskies - Nala and Bugger - need as many voices as possible to speak on their behalf. Rather than spending each night with their loving family, this mother and son pair is now confined to a cage in Monroe County Animal Control (Michigan), frightened and alone as they await their fates. 

A Lack of Information

Nala and Bugger, 3-1/2 and 2-1/2 years old respectively, are accused of killing two pigs in Bedford Township, Michigan on May 2, 2013. But in this case, the evidence doesn’t add up. It is littered with contradictions, requests for money, and demands to euthanize two dogs who are perhaps guilty of nothing more than roaming from home. 

Stephanie Sonnenberg is the owner of the slain pigs. She called 911 after finding Nala and Bugger with the pigs in her barn on the evening of May 2nd. The Monroe County Dog Warden later attended the scene and took Nala and Bugger into custody, where they have remained since the incident. 

After launching an investigation, authorities in Bedford Township and Monroe County determined that Nala and Bugger were responsible for the pigs’ demise and sentenced them to death by euthanasia. But the dogs’ owner, Jannie Juhasz, appealed the decision because she, along with many supporters, believes the dogs are innocent. 

Mrs. Juhasz admits on the day of the incident, she left a door open in her Toledo home, where Nala and Bugger live as indoor pets. Her pets then escaped and traveled the approximate two miles to the home of Mrs. Sonnenberg, which is where the story becomes muddled.

Conflicting Reports

The incident’s police report states Mrs. Sonnenberg entered her barn and saw a stray dog jump out of one pig stall. According to this report, the other dog was still in the pen and charged at her at once. 

But media interviews suggest Mrs. Sonnenberg walked into her barn and saw two dogs simultaneously mauling the two slain show pigs. When one of the dogs lunged at her by jumping over a three-foot stall, Mrs. Sonnenberg used physical force to restrain it and then kept the second dog from attacking. 

A third narrative, this one for insurance purposes, states that Mrs. Sonnenberg entered her barn and saw “nothing appeared out of the ordinary.” She then heard a piercing scream, entered an empty pig stall, and saw two dogs attacking a Breeding Gilt sow – a third pig that is different from the two who lost their lives. 

Reaping the Benefits

The manner in which the show pigs died has raised further suspicions. Farmers and 4-H professionals suggest their deaths were not caused by canines but from other sows. In photographs, the wounds appear to be consistent with scratches inflicted by pig hooves. No bites or tooth marks are present, and the flesh is not torn as it would likely be if dogs were to blame. On the day of the incident, neither Nala nor Bugger sustained any injuries. Each of the dogs weighs approximately 45 pounds, while the two show pigs each weighed around 125 pounds. 

Statements have been provided to Mrs. Juhasz that claim the purchase price of all three pigs - the two show pigs and one Breeding Gilt - was $5,200. Her insurance company has agreed to pay that amount to Mrs. Sonnenberg, although the statements appear suspect, as they don't contain invoice numbers or payment dates for the pigs, and minute details like font type and number formats are not consistent. 

At the center of this controversy is Michigan law 287.280, effected in 1919. This law states any loss or damage to livestock or poultry caused by a dog shall be rectified with monies awarded to the victim and death to the dog.  Attorney documents dated July 19, 2013, state Mrs. Sonnenberg is asking for a total of $45,000 from Mrs. Juhasz.

Photo Credit: Toledo Blade

The Struggle

Mrs. Juhasz is waiting for a court date for her appeal. In the meantime, supporters of Nala and Bugger ask for your help in keeping these dogs alive. Since their time at Animal Control, they have played with office personnel and staff without incident. Neither is considered aggressive, nor have they previously been in trouble for biting or attacking.  

In short, Nala and Bugger are non-violent and beloved pets with a warm home and caring family waiting for their return.  

You can learn more about this story and join an online petition to keep Nala and Bugger alive here. Donations for Mrs. Juhasz and her family are also respectfully requested, as they struggle to pay the $30 daily housing fee to Animal Control for Nala and Bugger. That fee is compounded by mounting attorney costs. Any amount you can contribute is appreciated, as is your support. 


3/20/2014 - "Nala and Bugger, two Toledo dogs convicted or killing two Bedford Township show hogs, will remain alive until their case is heard by the state of appeals court after a stay of execution was granted Tuesday... Judge La Beau, 'Contrary to popular belief, the township does not have any legal authority to call off the actions that have been put in place... That action must be taken by either the owner of the livestock or the dog owners. If they can come to an agreement, the township would be more than happy to facilitate that.' "  - Source: Monroe News

4/26/2014 - " The case had been filed with the Michigan Court of Appeals last month and will be withdrawn now that the case has concluded. Philip Goldsmith, attorney for Bedford Township that was a party in the case because of the Michigan law, said he prepared the settlement documents and a court order to release the dogs. Under the settlement, Ms. Sonnenberg was paid $5,000... As agreed in the settlement, the Juhaszes paid $1,000 out of their own pockets to bring their dogs home. A donor — Bud Love, owner of Power Recruiting in Toledo — chipped in $4,000 to buy the dogs’ freedom... Including the settlement payments, legal fees, and expenses for expert review of the case, the Juhaszes have spent about $14,500 to save Nala and Bugger.Boarding fees for the two dogs had totaled about $10,000, according to Sgt. Greg Berman, head of Monroe County Animal Control. Mr. Goldsmith negotiated a reduced cost of $1,500... Ms. Juhasz said it took Nala and Bugger a minute to get over their shock at seeing their owners for the first time in almost a year. But when they did, the dogs couldn’t have been happier, Ms. Juhasz said. Bugger, the more excitable of the two, whined and cried." - Source: Toldedo Blade

Photo Credit: Toledo Blade

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