by Jeanne Hambleton © Without prejudice

Those of you who made the effort to save the life of Congo, a two-year-old German Shepherd Dog, will be delighted to hear he has a temporary reprieve and is back home with his family. Thanks to all those who telephoned, wrote and sent emails in answer to an earlier response to save this dog who was doing what you would expect – protecting his home and family. Although confined to his own home and gardens Congo has been given a temporary stay of execution.

It is alleged Congo fought with a landscaper after the female GSD and their puppies became the victims of an assault and the lady of house had been pushed to the ground.

According to The Times newspaper in New Princeton USA on Friday November 16 2007, and their writer Linda Stein, Congo appeared in court, muzzled and full of high spirits. He had been detained in the town’s Animal Shelter called Save a Friend since the alleged attack early in June – five months ago. At the weekend Congo was reunited with the James family and the female German Shepherd bitch.

Inside the court Congo was pleased to see his family and was keen to rekindle his friendship with the eldest son, Brandon, who is 14 years old.

Earlier a lower court judge had ruled Congo was a vicious dog, which meant an automatic death penalty. But Superior Court Judge Mitchel Ostrer sanctioned a consent order giving the family pet a reprieve order subject to an appeal of the lower court judge’s ruling that Congo should be put to death.

The Superior Court Judge ruled that while Congo waits for the final outcome of the appeal, he must wear a muzzle and a leash outside the home of the James family. Fortunately Congo has a 10 acre garden and subject to the fencing being secure he will still have room to roam but only on the family’s land. Should he require medical treatment Congo will need the court’s permission to leave home?

But these inconveniences are a small price to pay while his life hangs in the balance. The notice of appeal of the Municipal Court Judge Russell Annich Jr.’s ruling has already been filed according to Linda Stein’s report.

Mercer County Assistant Prosecutor Doris Galuchie, who also signed the consent form for Congo’s release, said realistically she did not expect a date would be set for the appeal hearing before January. A transcript of the two day Municipal Court hearing had been requested by Ms Galuchie. It is said the Prosecutor owns a pet dog.

She assured the press that Congo would get a fair hearing but that all the relevant laws would need to be considered before the appeal was heard. Until then Congo would remain under “house arrest” with the James.

The Times reported that Municipal Court Judge Russell Annich Jr. continued to uphold his ruling relating to Congo regardless of the death threats he had received and hundreds of emails, letters and telephone calls with 100 protests from animal and dog welfare supporters.

There is little doubt the laws relating to dogs who fight off an attack on their own home ground while protecting the family and their property, need to be carefully looked at and if necessary amended. Some would say this dog deserved a medal for his bravery and selflessness.

Some years ago I had a black Labrador bitch that was ready to lay down her life for my son and her family. Her nose and face were badly cut as she broke the inside glass panel of the double glazing on the front door while an intruder tried to force the lock, unsuccessfully thankfully. I too would have fought through the courts to save that dog’s life. She was protecting my 11 year old son, who was in the house on his own at the time.

Oddly enough until then we did not regard her as a guard dog – just a big old softie who rolled around the floor with the children giving rides and being dressed in the kid’s clothes by the children. This Labrador was always a placid and even-tempered dog. I would make the same claims for my Great Dane, my last dog, although finding her the other side of the front door would be a rude awakening for an intruder. She was also unlikely to bark to make you aware of her presence either.

These days I have a burglar alarm linked to the police station. It is cleaner, (no pooper scooping), less effort and walking (but I do miss the exercise and the admiration she received) and it is also soul destroying (I do miss her companionship). Nothing can replace the welcome, wagging tail, and the pleasure a dog can bring when you arrive home. They do not even ask where you have been or how much you have spent….. The downside to owning a dog is when it dies. It hurts for a long long time and nothing replaces the emptiness.

Starting from when I was a child I have owned about ten different breeds of dogs. I am hoping when I get to Heaven (perhaps I should have said ‘if’) that they will all be waiting wagging their tails and be pleased to see me. I will get plenty of exercise then. Folk would have you believe there is a doggie heaven….I have no proof to the contrary…do you?

Let us hope Congo wins his battle and enjoys a long and happy life with his family.

What do you think? Would you stand by your dog for protecting you or your child? Do you think the laws should be changed or amended for dogs that are protecting their family and their home regardless of what damage they do to the offender? Surely the intruder or those making an assault should be punished – not the dog.

Let us hear from you with your views? Maybe we can change some opinions – who knows? Jeanne



  1. Judge Annich is a huge jerk and I hope something really bad happens to him to be putting Congo and his family through this. It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard of. Congo was just protecting his family. That moron landscaper got what he deserved. I’m sorry he didn’t get hurt worse. If ever put in a similiar situation, I would hope that my dog (a German Sheperd too) would react the same way. And I would raise holy hell if anyone tried to punish her for protecting us. God Bless Congo and the James family. I am going to pray that the New Jersey governor has more sense than that idiot Annich and overrides Congo’s sentence. Please save him!!!

  2. Kudos to Judge Ostrer for his understanding and unbiased judgement of this case. He made the right decision and did not base it on the frenzied panic of others who do not understand that Congo did not run out of his yard and attack people. He was just being a loyal family dog. I would love to have a dog like Congo.
    Many are afraid of anything that is covered with fur and walks on four legs. Maybe they should be more cautious of people.

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