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Dogs' owner pleads guilty in attack on sheep in NDSU research bar

Twelve North Dakota State University research sheep were injured or killed when dogs got into this barn seen Tuesday in Fargo. Forum file photo

FARGO – Doug Petersen, of Fargo, pleaded guilty Wednesday in Fargo Municipal Court to two counts of having dogs at large.

Two huskies belonging to Petersen and his wife, Crystal, got away from the Petersen home in north Fargo on Tuesday morning and attacked a flock of sheep inside a North Dakota State University research barn.

The huskies – Balder and Morgana – killed seven sheep, five others had to be euthanized and six sheep that survived the attack were treated for their injuries.

Petersen was fined $500 for each dog, the maximum under city ordinance.

The fine is not the end of costs the couple will face.

“Huskies are runners – that’s a breed characteristic,” Petersen said after his court appearance, during which he told the judge he and his wife had been in the process of saving enough money to have a wireless fence installed at their home to keep the dogs controlled.

Petersen admitted in court that Tuesday morning’s incident in the sheep barn wasn’t the first time his dogs had run loose. He and his wife paid $100 to get the dogs out of the city pound on April 26, and City Attorney Jodi Bass said neighbors of the Petersens reported seeing the dogs run loose previously.

“We do have a fence – about this high,” said Crystal Petersen, gesturing to her waist, “but when the snow was piled up, they could get over it.”

The couple were working in the backyard for cleanup week Tuesday when a neighbor’s 4-year-old son came over and let the dogs out the front door.

“About 30 seconds later, I heard our son call for Morgana – and she was gone,” Crystal Petersen said.

The Petersens are bracing themselves for an even bigger bill than the city’s two $500 tickets for Morgana, 4, and Balder, 7. They’re waiting to hear what the restitution bill will be from NDSU, which Bass said will be taken care of in civil court. Previous estimates put the cost of the loss of the sheep in the thousands of dollars.

“I’m shocked about it,” Crystal Petersen said. “I may be biased, but I can’t see them [the dogs] doing it.”

She said the dogs live with other animals and with children and have never exhibited aggression.

Judge Steven Dawson warned Doug Petersen that another offense could be prosecuted as a misdemeanor, which could carry even higher fines.

Crystal Petersen said they’re still working on how to keep the dogs corralled.

“Huskies are notorious for running,” she said. “It’s not that they’re bad. It’s what they do.”

Article written by Emily Welker of the Forum News Service

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