Wasco County DA Nisley in announcing the destruction of Denali after the fact to her Attorney Reb Babcock stated that he will only accept comments in writing, not by telephone. Mr. Nisley's telephone number is (541) 506-2680. His Fax is (541) 506-2681. The telephone number for the Wasco County Commissioners (Dan Ericksen, Bill Lennox, and Ms. Sherry Holliday) is (541) 506-2520. The Fax is (541) 506-2521. Bill Lenox has a separate number. It is (541) 506-2523. The e-mail addresses are on this communication.

The Dalles Chronicle
P.O. Box 1910
The Dalles, OR 97058
Telephone News: (541) 296-2141
News Fax: (541) 298-1365
Letters to the Editor, e-mail: [email protected]

The Oregonian, Regional correspondent: Matthew Preusch
Telephone: (541) 382-2006
Fax: (541) 610-1528
e-mail: [email protected]


From:[email protected] (Karissa), February 23, 2007
What you don't know could hurt her: Fighting to save Denali

For quite some time I have kept quiet about the truth. Some of you may be wondering why I am still fighting for Denali. Why do I continue to try after what seems to be endless defeat?

Denali was born 12/12/2001. I had been anticipating all week to hear of the puppy's arrival. I picked her out, pick of the litter and brought her home a few weeks later. Denali turned out to be a beautiful girl, a companion and part of my family. She was very active, loved to go for rides, go swimming, dive for rocks and catch Frisbees. She loved snuggling under the covers with you and playing with our other pit bull Guapo to whom she acted as surrogate mother to. She's so cute how she cocks her head to the side when you talk to her. A lot of people do not know what a good, loyal dog she is and never gave her a chance because she is a pit bull.

I am fighting for her life because this case was built upon a lie. A lie that says Denali bit then 7 yr old Austin Keller. A lie that says that he was knocked to the ground, attacked, bitten, in turn making him deathly afraid of dogs. The truth is that Austin was greeted by an overly excited Denali, who jumped up on him scratching him and frightening him. The puncture on his hand most likely caused the same way the puncture on his chest, by her long claws. He was never knocked down to the ground and was not bitten. The truth is one of the first things that his mother asked him was "Did she bite you?" and he replied "No momma, she just scratched me." Meanwhile his father comes over, not to check the welfare of the child but to demand I let my dog out so that he can shoot her. With his wife telling him to calm down he then calls the police before finding out the facts and reports that Denali had bitten his son. Austin Keller's wounds were so minor that he didn't go to the hospital; in fact he didn't go to the doctor until 2 days later. After swimming in the Columbia River later that day and riding bikes out side with his brother the next day, it had become infected.

Approximately one year later in the summer of 2005, Jerry and Austin Keller came in to my place of employment. With other employees and customers around, he came to me and began to apologize. He told me that he was sorry he let his anger get the best of him, and that if he would have just calmed down then we wouldn't be in the mess. Austin then told me that he had seen Denali a few days earlier and that he visits the dogs at the shelter often. This is coming from a child that was portrayed as being "Deathly afraid of Dogs" by Senior Deputy D.A. Leslie Wolff. Interestingly enough, the Kellers just got a new puppy.

So the TRUTH is that people have let Fear, Anger, and Power get the best of them, forgetting what is right. Some of you have heard that I just flat out refuse to take responsibility. In Wasco County's eyes, taking responsibility is giving into what they want. I was taught to tell the truth and fight for what you believe. The TRUTH is that Denali should live.



Denali, a young tan and white female American Pit Bull, was impounded by Wasco County Animal Control in July 2004. She has spent two and a half years on death row in Wasco County, Oregon. Despite the fact that humane alternatives have been present from the outset, that the incident was minor, and that future incidents are preventable, Wasco County has refused clemency.

Forwarded Message:


Date: 5/25/2007

Denali, Oregon's little Death Row American Pit Bull dog, was killed yesterday, May 24, 2007, between 4:00 and 4:30 P.M. on the order of Dan Ericksen, the Wasco County Commissioner and orchardist, the "judge" during Denali's kangaroo court proceedings, before a ruling was issued on a pending matter.

DA Nisley chose yesterday to play a fast end around the law by ordering Denali's death while legal proceedings were ongoing. He couldn't wait for the conclusion of the proceedings. DA Nisley notified Attorney Reb Babcock at !:00 PM the same day Denali was killed that unless he received an Order from the Supreme Court staying this matter, they would kill her immediately. That was the first part of the game "set up." Reb Babcock immediately responded noting that no appellate judgment had been issued and appellate rules provide 21 days in order to permit time for a petition for reconsideration. There was also a pending motion before the County Court. He advised DA Nisely that if he intended to proceed despite the lack of judgment and the pending motion, he would seek an "emergency relief" by facsimile communication the next morning. Three hours later they killed Denali.

DA Nisley advised Reb Babcock this morning at 10:30 AM that Denali was destroyed yesterday at 4:15 PM bypassing the legal system. DA Nisley's final request was "Please submit any comments or questions regarding this matter in writing. I will not receive telephone calls regarding this matter."

This conduct is not surprising given DA Nisley's and the Wasco County Commissioner's history of unethical behavior. As Denali was dying I was on the telephone with "Judge" Dan Ericksen who pretended throughout the conversation that she was still alive and that he was concerned about "security." Killing her while a motion was pending was his security "solution." Deceit, underhandedness, and bypassing the law are how this county government always operates especially when companion animals' lives are at stake. The following letter was written before I knew what Dan Ericksen knew: that he had already killed Denali with the help of his ethically disabled crew. Mr. Ericksen hung up on me after claiming that I had interrupted him while he was speaking. When I called back he demanded an apology for interrupting his speech. We and all who cared are owed an apology from orchardist Dan Ericksen and his government kin.

May 25, 2007

Wasco County Board of Commissioners
Mr. Dan Ericksen
Mr. Bill Lennox
Ms. Sherry Holliday

Regarding your Order to Kill Denali

Mr. Ericksen:

This is in response to the short conversation we had last yesterday (after you hung up on me demanding an apology for an alleged interruption) in which you addressed the reasons you insist that Denali must be killed. Although I appreciate learning your approach to these issues, all of the arguments you raised can be met with humane and rational solutions. Your refusal to consider these solutions demonstrates why the proceedings that create the opportunity for life and death decisions should not be conducted by individuals with no legal training. Your decision about Denali was made well before the "trial" began and your attitude now is one of commitment to that original despotic predisposition. Despite the fact that you have clearly elected to remain within a circle of ignorance, I will address your arguments one at a time.

The use of subjective catastrophic fantasies and exaggerated false accounts as a substitute for fact.

In order to compel your desire to kill Denali, you have exaggerated her misdeeds calling her a "vicious" dog who cannot survive outside the confines of the Home At Last's animal control. Nothing supports that false statement. I have read and summarized the entire record. Each of the less than 4 incidents described had clearly identified stressors, the most significant damage was an 1/8 inch puncture caused during an over enthusiastic doorway greeting (someone took the time to measure the puncture) that more than likely was caused by a nail puncture. Both of the other two incidents were quite minor involving Denali's getting over the fence. One was a grip to the hand of a senior citizen dragging a garbage can to the curb. It resulted in a minor skin break. The response was controlled. Your conclusion that this means Denali will attack and kill someone because noise makes her vicious is complete ignorant self serving nonsense. She is territorial. A good fence will do.

Your exaggeration of "security" needs, wildly out of place are again to create the image of an out of control unpredictable dog who must be destroyed. The staff play bowling games with her and she goes on car rides. How "vicious" is that? Was it an "armored" car, fitted with guards? Given these facts I remain confounded by your report that Ms. Janna Hage, shelter manager according to you advised you that she should be killed. There were no there options.

The hubris that would cause you to believe that Denali could only be kept safe inside a small stressful crowded shelter for three years where strangers and other animals come and go all the time is irrational. Wouldn't she have fared far better in a private home on sanctuary grounds with an experienced animal control officer and pit bull rehabilitation expert? The answer is obvious.

Furthermore, beginning in 2004, I offered to pay Home at Last for consultation and follow up visits with Dr. Jacqui Nielsen, now president of the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association, one of approximately 40 diplomates in behavioral medicine in the country. The offer was continuous and always open. Ms. Hage declined stating that they were managing "just fine." Dogs kept under constant confinement in unnatural shelter environments suffer from exacerbated stress. It affects but does not permanently define their behavior. That has been demonstrated over and over again. Why would Ms. Hage have rejected such an offer given your current report that she regards Denali as "vicious"?

Your statement that you wouldn't sleep well if Denali weren't killed should be reversed. How can you sleep well ordering a vengeful death that is so unnecessary? How can you sleep well when every objection and concern has been met with effective rational solutions? It isn't your "liability" if another takes it on. The individual taking this on, Laurie Adams, has an expert background and additionally all around us experts in behavioral veterinary medicine are available. Your response that you haven't come up with a policy is just stonewalling. Write up an individual contract. If all else fails and you still can't sleep what judge would place his idiosyncratic sleep disturbance above fairness and justice? I'll tell you: an orchardist masquerading as a judge. You shouldn't sleep well at night, your final excuse for killing. Try Ambien if you have a sleeping problem. Honesty and integrity however work better.

These are excuses founded in a desired to manipulate a desired predetermined outcome. They are based in rationalizations not reason. They are based in small minded bigoted government.

The rejection of real professional expertise for faux "homespun" government "in home analysis"

Animal Control Officer Brad Heinige has proven his dishonesty over and over again as a reporter. His assessments have intentionally been false, intended to mislead and deceive. He has wildly claimed that Laurie Adams, of Casa del Toro Pit Bull Rescue in Franklin, Indiana planned to rescue, rehabilitate, and covertly rehome Denali instead of keeping her for life as her personal companion animal. To convey this false impression Mr. Heinige went to Laurie Adams website and because she does rescue, rehabilitate and rehome pit bulls announced that Denali might meet the same fate too: rescue and rehabilitation. He never directly interviewed her, just went around Robinson's barn (a phrase surely familiar to an orchardist). However Ms. Adams very plainly stated from the outset that she would keep Denali as her personal companion pet in her home for life. Why lie? Why go through such a deceitful "process"?

From the outset in 2004 you proved your disinterest in any outcome but killing by never seeking out Ms. Adams, never interviewing her, never seeking personal or work references about her. You couldn't then and don't now care in the least about alternatives or the rights of others.

Instead of accepting a generous offer to include a nationally known expert on animal behavior to assist in options for Denali, you declared you needed no such expertise. Brad Heinge was a fine officer. You claim him as your "expert" on animal behavior science while rejecting those with true credentials. He is not an expert in animal behavior science. He just served your purpose.

The statement that you were greatly persuaded by Janna Hage, the founder and director of Home At Last No kill shelter that Denali is an irremediably vicious dog who cannot be rehabilitated compelled your decision to kill Denali.

Certainly one would want such a diagnostic/prognostic conclusion put to the test based on the known facts. There are indeed many expert options. You have simply rejected them. Ms. Hage runs a shelter. She is not an expert in behavior rehabilitation nor does she have any background about the effects of long term incarceration upon an animal and methods used to correct these. This is her first case. She works for you.

Ms. Hage also is in the unusual position of being under contract to Wasco County. She is paid by the county but according to her statement the contract specifies that she has no say whatsoever in the disposition of animal control cases. Yet on this occasion according to you, you have joined hands and both sadly believe that you must reject a viable realistic humane alternative and kill Denali. Home at Last is No Kill but "there are exceptions." Did you manipulate her acceptance as well or did she concede, go along, "for the greater good" because she works for you? It seems to be your administrative style. It certainly tarnishes their reputation.

The fact that you are killing Denali because of Janna Hage's reported views is not easily reconciled with her statements to others. At one point Ms. Hage noted that they would want to personally drive Denali to the Indiana Sanctuary to inspect it. They have cared for this dog for years in a difficult setting. Others can continue that care in a less difficult setting. Home at Last is not uniquely capable of caring for Denali. The staff of Home at Last were once strangers to Denali too. She can learn to live and play well with others. Home at Last would be perceived as a caring agency and be the beneficiary of the many nationally and internationally who have become aware of this case if any justified leniency were shown. They won't be now, especially after your calculated statement that they are one of the primary reasons that you insist upon Denali's death. I have no idea where the truth lies but certainly know who holds the monies that fund their operation. I have copied Ms. Hage as well in an effort to clarify these matters. Someone is reporting dishonestly. Denali need not be the political tug of war sacrifice between the county and humane sheltering that you have made it to be.

The apology of the young boy's father to Karissa Ball that he had overreacted, let his temper get the best of him and misreported the incident meant nothing at all to you in your need to be "right," be the "judge."

Denali has been the sacrifice. This is no different from an earlier death row case from Wasco County's dirty history September 1987, the case of Susie, a young Doberman Pinscher falsely accused of killing a turkey. The county knew the charge was false but insisted on killing her anyway. One of the principals on Denali's case, Scott McKay was party to this case as well. Susie's family was denied the rights of due process. So was Denali. Twenty years later there has been no change in this county's reckless disregard for the lives of animals and the rights of their owner/guardians.

Mary Oberst, Oregon's first Lady, summed up Denali and Karissa Ball's, her owner's, plight in February 27, 2007, letter to the Oregonian: " Babcock took this case pro bono because of his compassion for animals and to defend what we generally think of as common ownership rights, in an administrative process that left no room for these rights."

Citizens still have no rights in Wasco County. The county commissioners have resolved to continue to deny those rights by killing a small defenseless animal who simply needed a good home and by lying to achieve their goals. Their excuse is that they must kill so that they can sleep at night. The rest of us, common ordinary citizens, will not be sleeping well because of Wasco County's constant calculated abuse of its power.


Gail O'Connell-Babcock, Ph.D.,
Citizens for Humane Animal Legislation/Watchdog
16004 SW Tualatin-Sherwood Road, Box 508
Sherwood, Oregon 97140
Telephone: (503) 625-4563; FAX: (503) 925-8299

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