WAUKESHA – George the Great Dane has lost a key element of his court case, leaving open the possibility he will not be able to live with the family who has fought for his life against a Waukesha County order.
Following a hearing on Wednesday, Waukesha County Circuit Court Judge Ralph Ramirez sided with the county, saying that the court will find that officials have acted within their authority and jurisdiction to order that the Waukesha family’s dog be euthanized or moved to a home outside the county.
In short, the court will not overturn the decision of an executive committee, which backed the findings of animal control representatives.
That’s not the end of the story, however. George’s final disposition will rest on what comes out of a still-to-be scheduled mediation session between George’s owners Thomas and Bea-Ida Robertson and county officials.
Asked in a brief phone interview what she hopes the county will say during mediation, Bea Robertson replied: “You can keep your baby.”
The Robertsons sued the county in January 2019, challenging the order, based on second-hand reports, that their dog had bitten family members in 2018. They argued that the county overstepped its authority and exaggerated claims of injury in declaring the fawn-colored, 120-pound Great Dane was a “prohibited dangerous animal” under county ordinances.
The injuries — a bite to Bea Robertson and scratches to a toddler of Bea’s niece in separate incidents — required stitches, but were otherwise not deemed serious, the family argued.
The family called George a “gentle giant,” a now 4½-year-old show dog who admittedly could be startled but is by no means dangerous. The Robertsons noted that no family members had lodged a complaint against George and that the county relied on the words of others to establish its case.
But the county maintained throughout the case, now spanning nearly two years, that it has acted within its authority to protect the public against a dog that has caused injuries requiring treatment.
Prior to the lawsuit, the county told the Robertsons that George would either have to be moved to live outside the county or euthanized, an action which the family said would cause “irreparable harm” to them.
For Bea Robertson, the court’s decision following a video-conferencing hearing was difficult to accept, leaving her wondering if the family should have done more to argue its points.
“It was just hard,” she said by phone following the hearing. “We have been quiet and trying to be respectable of our county we live in. It’s almost like they wanted it more.”
But Robertson said the family remains optimistic that the county ultimately won’t force them to euthanize George or require him to leave the county.
“It’s not over — this is basically round one,” she said, “and George is doing great. He’s such a good boy. Everybody loves him. … It would just be so hard to lose a member of this family.”
Though she acknowledges the county has not communicated what its demand might be in mediation, Robertson said that her understanding is that George can remain at home, under muzzling and other cautionary restrictions the family has followed for more than a year, until all proceedings are concluded.
“We’ll just have to wait until they talk,” she added. “I’m hoping that because they labeled him as a dangerous prohibited dog, that the word ‘prohibited’ is pretty much taken out.”
Amy Doyle, the attorney representing the county as the hearings, did not immediately return calls to clarify what the county’s position might be or clarify how she viewed the judge’s order.
Pat Schober, the Robertsons’ attorney, also declined to comment.
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