Dolly, a local 10-pound dachshund, is at the center of a civil lawsuit in Skagway District Court.
The small claims action, filed by Brad and Courtnay Thoe against Matthew Smith, claims that when Brad Thoe went to get some fish and chips from Alaska Wild Catch just after midnight on Aug. 7, he left Dolly in his blue pickup truck parked on State Street at Fourth.
While Thoe was away from the truck, Dolly began to bark.
“The windows were about halfway open. I was only gone for about 7 minutes,” Thoe told the court during a hearing on Wed. Nov. 2.
During that time, Matt Smith, part-owner of the Happy Endings and Pizza Station was woken up by the barking dog. He went out of his room on Fourth Avenue and down to Brad Thoe’s truck, where he opened the door, and removed Dolly.
Both parties are in a disagreement over what happened next.
“I heard the truck door open,” said witness Nathaniel Leggett, who was hanging out in the area at the time. Leggett told the court that Smith had taken Dolly out of the truck and that she had stopped barking.
That’s when Brad Thoe approached Smith. Thoe testified he had heard the dog let out a loud yelp. He said he thought that Smith had dropped Dolly about four feet to the pavement.
“The [truck] door was open and I heard a loud yelp,” Thoe said. That’s when he confronted Smith.
“I heard what I thought sounded like an argument,” Leggett testified. “The next thing I know the [truck] drives around and I heard Brad say ‘If he touches my dog again, I’m going to put a bullet in his skull.’”
Thoe had scooped up Dolly and put her back in the truck, Leggett said.
“My concern was for the dog,” Thoe told Magistrate Susan Reed.
Courtnay Thoe testified that the dog was visibly shaking and traumatized once she got home. She wanted to get Dolly to her veterinarian in Juneau right away.
“Dolly is a very confident dog. She was shaking, which is a sign of pain,” she said.
Before the Thoes could get Dolly on a flight to Juneau, they reported the incident to Skagway Police Department. Officer Brian Williams responded to the call and went in search of Smith.
“The dog was shaking,” Williams told the court. “I had seen the dog before, driving around in Brad’s truck.” He added that there was definitely something wrong with her.
Williams took down the report and went to locate Smith, he said. No one could find Smith immediately after the incident.
It was two full days before Dolly could be flown to Southeast Alaska Animal Medical Center to see Dr. Patrick M. Taylor. Taylor had seen Dolly just a week before for a check-up and found her to be in sound health. After an exam on Aug. 9, Taylor told the Thoes their 10-year old dog had deep tissue damage to one of her legs.
During the nearly two-hour long hearing, a video from one of the officer’s body cameras was entered into evidence. The video shows Officer Williams knocking several times on Smith’s door with no response. He then calls Smith, who answered and said that he was home. Smith opened the door and let the officers in.
The video shows Officer Williams talking with Smith about the incident with Dolly.
“From what I gather nobody else saw what happened, they heard what happened, but nobody saw what happened,” Williams said to Smith on the video. “He (Thoe) was pretty upset that night.”
“I did not know whose truck that was, when I put that dog on the ground,” Smith said on the video.
Williams asked Smith why he took the dog out of the car. “First of all ‘breaking and enter’ means ‘breaking,’ and I didn’t break anything,” Smith said.
Williams explained to Smith that entering the vehicle was a Class B Misdemeanor.
“You had no right to go into the vehicle,” Williams said. “That’s the lowest crime you could commit in Alaska. The second one I could investigate is called Criminal Mischief. And that’s basically when you go through and you damage someone else’s property, and that property for this instance being the dog. By their side of the story, the dog suffered damage.”
Williams added, “The third thing is animal cruelty and that one is, honestly, pretty hard to prove. But even then you are looking at a misdemeanor.”
Smith then responded, “That’s sad, at the end, that is the hardest part. That is why I opened the door. It sounded like something was killing it.”
During the interview, Williams asks Smith if he had been drinking, and if so how drunk did he was feeling on a scale of zero to 10. Zero being sober and 10 being the most drunk he had ever been.
“A 2.75,” Smith said.
In court, Smith testified that there were two dogs in the truck and that he took the smaller dog, Dolly, out of the truck. “The bigger dog could have hurt the smaller one,” Smith said.
“I love dogs. Some dog owners I have an issue with. I would not throw a dog to the ground,” Smith testified.
The Thoes are asking for $1,045.49, the amount of the vet bill.
Smith has filed a counter suit.
Reed told the parties she would take the matter under advisement and will issue her ruling at a later date. Until then, Dolly continues to recuperate.