Great Falls

Jan 16, 2013 2:11 AM by Beth Beechie (beth@krtv.com)

Great Falls man fighting to get therapy dog returned after it killed a cat

Erik Sturchio of Great Falls appeared in Municipal Court in Great Falls on Tuesday, fighting to be reunited with his therapy dog.

The city questions whether or not it's safe to let the dog out after it escaped from Sturchio's home and killed a cat recently.

Sturchio, a war veteran, told the judge that he suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder, to the point where he's been issued a therapy dog to help with his anxiety.

Almost a month ago, Sturchio admitted himself to the hospital because of his PTSD.

While receiving treatment at Fort Harrison in Helena, his 100-pound Akita escaped from his home and killed a cat.

During Tuesday's court session, judge Nancy Luth said, "The court has some concerns. The court has some concerns that we have an animal that is potentially aggressive. There's evidence of some aggression and the defendant wants the animal out because the animal needs to be with him at all times because it's his service animal."

The dog's veterinarian testified that the dog is in fact untrained, which the court stated was also an issue considering Sturchio's need for the dog to be by his side at all times.

Sturchio testified that he's given his dog minimal training himself and purchased a service dog bib for his animal online.

Luth decided that the kennel Sturchio made at his residence did not look sturdy enough in her opinion for the dog to be returned home at this point.

The city still has witnesses they'd like to call to the stand, so the trial was scheduled to reconvene on Thursday afternoon.

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