April 26 2017 01:11 PM

Trio of dogs released after judge reverses decision to euthanize them

A trio of dogs who were facing a death sentence in Ionia County has been freed.

A German Shepherd and two pitbulls ran afoul of the law in July when they escaped the yard of Susan Vamvakias. Hours later they were allegedly found in a closed pen with the rigid corpses of three goats.

Prosecutors argued in late July that the dogs killed the goats and therefore, under state law, needed to be euthanized as a risk to public safety. But Ionia County Animal Control officials disagreed. A consulting veterinarian determined the goats likely died hours before the dogs came upon them.

The dogs were granted a new trial in March after lawyers for Vamvakias, who owns Major the German Shepherd, and her son-in-law Allen Hustin, owner of the pitbulls Mario and Luigi, appealed a July 27 decision by 64-A District Court Judge Raymond Voet to destroy the animals.

On April 17, Voet overturned his previous decision and ordered the dogs released. He also refused to make Hustin and Vamvakias pay for the time the animals were kept in the animal control shelter. The two pitbulls were soon on their way to be reunited with Hustin, who is in the military and lives at Fort Bragg in North Carolina.