There were no simple solutions at a Monday hearing in the Mat-Su Valley for husky dog, owned by a Palmer Iditarod musher, which repeatedly bit 2-year-old Elin Shuck on May 10th.

Musher Jake Berkowitz did not attend the hearing due to work reasons, but his wife Robin watched as the Mat-Su Animal Care and Regulation Board deliberated whether or not to classify "Wizard," as a Level 5, which would mean euthanizing the animal.

According to the Borough, Jake and Robin Berkowitz were not at home during the attack, but knew Jennifer Sundquist was going to stop by to care for her dogs housed on the Berkowitz property.

While the Board remained deadlocked on the issue of the dog's classification level, it did order the husky be reclassified by the Chief Animal Care and Regulation Officer.

Four out of five board members attended the hearing on Monday including: Chairperson John Wood, Vice Chair Terry Morache, Rhonda Weinrick and Dr. Sabrieta Holland. Member Sharon Sweeny was not in attendance due to a conflict, and alternate Dawn Vogt was gone for the summer.

The board took up the issue of whether Sundquist trespassed when she brought her three children into the dog yard containing more than 50 dogs, as well as whether the dogs were provoked by the presence of young children.

Chairperson Wood questioned Sundquist's judgment when she brought the children to the yard.

"Why she did not place the children in the van when she moved the dogs is inexplicable to me," Wood said.

The board also acknowledged that neither Berkowitz could have done anything to predict the animal's behavior.

"Mr. Berkowitz is an experienced musher who expressed testimony of a firm grasp of the nature of dogs and their reaction to different stimuli," Wood said. "He understands that in nature dogs are predatory and that nature is a fact."

All board members remained split on whether or not euthanizing the dog would make a difference in the future.

"If the dog were to be euthanized, the child would not be un-bitten," Rhonda Weinrick said.

Chairperson Wood disagreed.

"If the dog is not euthanized, you will see it happen again in the future," Wood said.

Overall, the board ended in a 2-2 deadlock and for now Wizard will remain in quarantine at the animal shelter until the reclassification process is complete. On June 19, the board went into an adjudicatory session to decide the classification of Wizard and no majority decision was made in that session.

Dr. Holland and Wood concluded that Wizard fits into the Level 5 classification recommendation.

"I believe this dog stands a high chance of an attack," Dr. Holland said.

Vice Chair Tery Morache and Rhonda Weinrick both found exception to the classification, stating some form of trespass occurred at the time of the dog attack.

"I don't believe expressing permission for a person to come on your property entitles them to bring other people with them," Weinrick said.

Both sides will have the next 30 days to appeal the board's findings and if they do, the case will continue in superior court.


Contact: Samantha Angaiak