Lladk, the Alaskan Malamute dog that Clackamas County had sentenced to euthanasia last year, will live out the rest of his days at a sanctuary in California.
Now the struggles of the dog's owners, Lanea and Caleb Kollenburn of Molalla, come to a bittersweet end.
After Lladk bit the Kollenburns' then 15-month-old son in July 2020, a contracted hearings officer, Joe Turner, labeled Lladk as a "dangerous dog." He decided the county would seize Lladk, and he sentenced the dog to euthanasia.
With help from animal rights advocate Gail O'Connell-Babcock, maritime attorney Robert Babcock and animal rights attorney Adam Karp, the Kollenburns engaged in a months-long battle at the county and state levels to save Lladk and return him home. They said the incident was a "freak accident" and that they felt no threat of harm from the pet and service animal, who helped both Caleb and Lanea with emotional disabilities.
But their efforts were continually thwarted, and the threat of death was always looming as Lladk's euthanasia date was set and extended repeatedly.
"Lladk suffering caused me immense suffering," Lanea said. "I was losing my mind without him. I was losing my mind not knowing if he will get out alive no matter how hard I fought."
With no options left, on Jan. 12, the Kollenburns sued Clackamas County and the Clackamas Board of County Commissioners in federal court for discrimination and asked for Lladk to be returned home. That same day, Karp filed a request for a temporary restraining order that would prevent the county from euthanizing Lladk until a hearing could take place regarding the federal suit.
Judge Marco Hernandez granted the TRO, but panic again began to set in as the TRO's expiration date, March 28, approached.
Finally, on April 1, the Kollenburns settled with Clackamas County to allow Lladk's release to Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center, Inc., a reputable no-kill sanctuary, according to O'Connell-Babcock.
But there was one more hurdle to overcome: paying the $7,500 worth of fees to the county for their boarding of Lladk against the Kollenburn's will. After fees already paid and moneys raised, the family still owed a significant $3,800.
But good news came on April 1.
"I am pleased to announce that a donor came through, and the settlement should be finalized today," Karp said on the Justice for Lladk Facebook page.
The next day, Lladk was en route to sanctuary.
"Many thanks to the community who came together, internationally, to save him, and the Kollenburns," Karp said.
Under the terms of the rescue agreement, the county and the Kollenburns fully release ownership of Lladk to the sanctuary.
The Kollenburns are not allowed to visit or have contact with Lladk. The rescue cannot ever rehome Lladk and must maintain a $1 million insurance policy on the dog.
"Without Lladk by my side, there will always be an incurable loneliness that only he could cure," Lanea said. "I will always miss him; he was my first son. Lladk's name is the acronym of my full name. I will always be heartbroken, but not like I would be if he was killed. I wanted a life mate like Lladk since I was 10, and when I saw him, I knew I was in love. But knowing he is being loved like he deserves, he is free to run and he is alive is all I could really ask for."
Now that Lladk is free to run and play in sunny California, O'Connell-Babcock suggests the battle has just begun.
"The laws did not free Lladk," O'Connell-Babcock said. "They imprisoned and nearly killed him. Left in place, those same laws will kill innocent animals again and again unless citizens continue to speak out and protest as unrelentingly as they have for Lladk's life.
"Change will not be easy," she said. "It has its enemies, but unless we strive for that change and establish minimum objective county standards of justice and due process, injustice will always win the battle. Now is the time to begin that fight."
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