Collie Who Bit Three Wins New 'Leash' on Life

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Collie Who Bit Three Wins New "Leash" on Life

By Julie Manganis on SalemNews.com
November 2009

A 4-year-old border collie sent to doggie death row last month for biting three people has won a reprieve from a judge.

Nietzsche will leave the Danvers Animal Hospital tomorrow to go to her new home near Bethel, Maine, under the terms of an order issued Tuesday by Salem District Judge Robert Cornetta.

Last month, a court clerk ordered the destruction of the 33-pound black and white dog, finding that her owner, Angie West Murphy of Salem, was not capable of controlling her, so the safety of the public was at risk.

As a puppy, the dog bit a woman and an 11-year-old girl, which led to an order that the dog be muzzled at all times while out in public. Murphy followed the order for three years but then lost the muzzle. Murphy, who said she didn't understand that the order was permanent, was downtown with the dog one day last June when Nietzsche bit the leg of a Newton woman.

Then, in September, the dog got loose. That led the city to order the dog placed in a kennel.

Salem police Capt. John Jodoin said the decision to order the dog destroyed was one he didn't want to make.

"We were stuck between a rock and a hard place," Jodoin said. "We don't take any joy in killing a dog, but we have to protect the public's safety."

Jodoin said he was pleased that a new owner has been found.

After a Salem News story about the case appeared, many people stepped forward, offering to provide a home for the dog or to help raise money so Murphy could appeal the order. One of those was Salem lawyer Jeremy Cohen, who offered to represent Murphy at no charge after hearing about the case from another lawyer.

"Once I went and met Nietzsche, she's such a beautiful dog, I had to take the case," Cohen said.

But it soon became clear that there would be little option but to find Nietzsche a new home if they wanted to save the dog's life.

"Angie was willing to do whatever it took to keep the dog alive," Cohen said.

It was a heart-wrenching choice, but one Murphy, who got married yesterday, knew was necessary.

Murphy, who lives on Social Security disability income, had always dreamed of owning a border collie. But her disabilities and small apartment made it impossible for her to meet all of the dog's needs, including training.

That conclusion was bolstered by a report submitted last week by Ken Cline, a co-founder of Northeast Border Collie Rescue. Cline evaluated the dog at the request of Salem Animal Control Officer Don Famico, who was also hoping for a way to avoid putting down Nietzsche.

Cline described the dog as "a little cautious" but sociable and not dominant at all.

"I actually thought she was quite docile," Cline wrote.

Cline found that the dog's issues were due, at least in part, to Murphy's ownership.

"This is a working breed and has a lot of energy and drive," Cline wrote. "It does them no good to be confined to an apartment with little to do. They get bored and frustrated, and with no outlet, this alone can lead to undesirable behavior."

An animal welfare group, MassPAWS, also stepped forward to raise money to cover the cost of the appeal and the kennel bill for Nietzsche, which Cornetta has ordered Murphy to pay. They're also planning to raise enough to pay for the dog to be spayed.

The dog's new owner has experience with border collies, having worked with them on a farm in Utah, Cohen said. He had recently lost a dog.

The new owner, Bradley Martin, will retrain the dog.

He'll have to work with the dog's natural instincts to nip at animals.

"She sees everyone standing around her like they're cattle with clothes on," Cohen said.

The most recent victim of the dog, Suzanne Paullin of Newton, said she's "thrilled" to learn that Nietzsche won't die.

"I didn't want the dog to die, because I know it's not the dog's fault," Paullin said. "I'm very happy that the doggie's going to have a nice long life."

"It's tough on Angie," Cohen said, "but the dog lives. As Nietzsche himself once said, 'That which does not kill us makes us stronger.' So I think Angie will benefit ultimately."