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Portland, Maine — This is a tale of dognapping and the emergence of a shadowy group calling itself the National Doggie Liberation Front.

It all started with Tucker, a 140-pound bull mastiff getting into a fight with a neighboring poodle in Augusta. The poodle lost big. Tucker was charged with canine homicide and sentenced to death through lethal injection by Augusta. District Court Judge Courtland D. Perry II. While Tucker’s owner, Eric M. Leonard was filing a court appeal, he asked the, Governor, Joseph E. Brennan, to pardon the dog. The governor said he could not because the case was a civil not a criminal case.
Enter the National Doggie Liberation Front (NDLF) which apparently believed that the punishment doled out to Tucker was anything but civil. Its agents dognapped Tucker from his Kennel — prison in mid-February two days before he faced this court-ordered execution. About two weeks later, Pamela Shain, media director for a. Portland advertising agency, received a call one Sunday night from a man identifying himself only as “Donald”. Speaking for the NDLF, he said that Tucker was in good hands and would only be released if pardoned by Governor Brennan. Donald sent Shain Tucker’s dog license tag to prove he indeed had custody of the condemned canine.

A gubernatorial pardon was not the only demand. NDLF wants (1) a steak dinner for Tucker, (2) three female dogs in heat—preferably English Bull Mastiffs, (3) a screen test for an Alpo or Purina commercial, (4) a personal visit from Lorne Greene and Lassie, (5) a monogrammed fire hydrant, (6) a month’s supply of big bones and (7) uninterrupted time with his owner. Should these demands riot be met, NDLF says they will bomb the State House with “dog poop.”

All this is not funny to Kennebec County District Attorney, David W. Crook:, who prosecuted Tucker. Crook says that Tucker’s captors “are playing a very bad and tasteless joke to obtain publicity or perpetrate a public hoax.”

He added that the dognappers are “insensitive to the aggravation” that Leonard and the owner of the dead poodle are suffering. To Crook, the D.A., the NDLF could face charges of dog theft and obstruction of a court order.

The next chapter in this doggie saga is likely to be television. The NDLF is said to be willing to release Tucker, the bull mastiff , on a national talk show and hopes that an aroused public opinion will do the rest.

Pranks and comedic mischief have been part of the human race since time immemorial. To Tucker and his owner, however, it is riot a matter o+ hilarity as much as it is a matter of relief. The bull mastiff was not accused of being dangerous to humans. Nor to dogs generally. He just got into a fight with one poodle and didn’t quite appreciate his own strength. It turns out that the neighbors were riot at all friendly with one another to begin with. Which, some local residents say, explains the persistence of the deceased dog’s owner pressing charges.

So maybe the National Doggie Liberation Front had it right -from the start — the problem is a human one. The dogs just got caught in the middle.