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Governor Exiles Dog That was Sentenced to Die

January 29, 1994

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ A 110-pound Akita dog sentenced to death three years ago for injuring a 10- year-old girl was given a reprieve but must leave New Jersey.

Gov. Christie Whitman on Friday gave owners Lonnie and Sandy Lehrer of Haworth 30 days to find new owners in another state for 5-year-old Taro. Whitman has four dogs of her own.

″I am delighted that we have saved Taro’s life,″ Lonnie Lehrer said in a statement released by the Animal Rights Law Center of Rutgers Law School.

Taro has been on death row at the Bergen County Jail since February 1991. Haworth officials ordered him destroyed after he injured Brie Halfond on Christmas Day 1990. The dog’s case attracted international attention, including appeals for leniency from Brigitte Bardot.

Borough officials said the dog bit the girl’s lip, but the Lehrers said the child provoked the dog and was scratched. The girl is the Lehrer’s niece.

Taro had been declared ″potentially dangerous″ before the Christmas Day incident for killing a neighbor’s dog and attacking two other animals.

The dog’s stay at the jail costs about $18 a day, for a total of more than $13,000. The Lehrers spent $30,000 fighting the death sentence; the borough spent $60,000.

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