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New Hampshire city’s three-strikes law lands dog on death row

February 4, 1997

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) _ Prince’s critics call him vicious and say he’s part wolf. His family calls him Houdini and says he’s quite nice.

And his best friend, 5-year-old Jeffrey Kristiansen, is in tears because Prince’s knack for escaping has landed him on death row. The black Labrador mix has been condemned under a three-strikes-and-you’re-out ordinance for dogs the city has deemed vicious.

Jeffrey says Prince, jailed for twice escaping from his home after killing a rooster, is getting a bad rap.

``He’s a nice dog and never bit anyone,″ Jeffrey said Monday. ``That’s why I don’t want him in jail. He’s not the one responsible _ the rooster’s responsible.″

Officials believe he is the first dog condemned to death under the ordinance, in this city of about 25,000 in the southeast corner of the state.

Police and the mayor’s office have been flooded with calls protesting the sentence for the dog, who is 3 1/2 years old, and city Prosecutor Robert Ducharme is hoping to work out a settlement.

``I’m trying to find something ... that would protect the citizens of Portsmouth and take into account the fact it’s not the dog’s fault it’s running around loose, and still punish the owner in some way, shape or form,″ Ducharme said.

A hearing on Prince’s fate is scheduled for next week.

Jeffrey’s mother, Margaret Kristiansen, who must face trial for letting the dog run loose after it killed the rooster, says she tried everything to keep Prince restrained.

``Prince is an escape artist _ his nickname is Houdini,″ she said. ``He broke out of collars, he broke his dog run on more than one occasion.″

One of those times, Prince went to check out some chickens, ducks and geese who live on a pond behind a neighboring apartment complex. A rooster flew over the chain-link fence protecting the pond, and Prince bit him.

Prince, who had a history of attacking other fowl, got labeled a vicious dog after killing the rooster. Owners must keep vicious dogs muzzled and leashed in public, and restrained at all times.

Ms. Kristiansen said she and her fiance did everything they could to keep Prince at home, but he escaped twice more.

Adding to the controversy, Prince may be part wolf, although no one knows for sure. When Ms. Kristiansen first took him to a veterinarian, she was told to socialize Prince, introducing him to lots of people and other animals.

Even if Prince can’t resist a rooster, Jeffrey says he behaves well around people.

``At my birthday party, he met a lot of my friends,″ he said. ``He never bit anyone _ he hasn’t even bit me.″

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