GRANTS PASS — After nearly a month in lockup, a three-legged pit bull named Kron was spared from euthanasia on Wednesday after Josephine County hearings officer Robert Bain decided that the dog's permanent removal from Josephine County to a non-rural, livestock-free area was a suitable alternative to death.

A 2-year-old male, Kron was ordered to be euthanized by two of three Josephine County commissioners after a March 11 attack in rural Merlin that left an almost 30-year-old horse with facial injuries. Kron attacked the horse, named Hummer, when Kron escaped his enclosed yard.

Kron was shot twice — in his neck and his head — by the horse's owner, Riessen Road resident John Bartlett, who told court officials he used no fewer than three guns during the incident in which he said the dog lunged at him and his wife after attacking the horse.

Kron's caretaker Leah Harp, who owns the property neighboring the Bartletts, and Kron's owner, Brye Rogers, were joined in court by supporters and animal rights attorney Adam Karp of Bellingham, Wash.

Harp and Rogers sobbed after hearing the verdict that Kron could be released immediately following the hearing.

"We're so relieved. We really didn't know what to expect today," Harp said Wednesday.

Added Rogers, "We feel like our voices were actually heard this time."

Harp drove Kron up to his new owners in Lane County Thursday morning.

Bain spent two-and-a-half hours reviewing evidence and hearing testimony from animal control officer David Pitts, supporters of Kron and from the horse owners Mary and John Bartlett.

Lona Gibbs, a veterinary technician for Southern Oregon Veterinary, testified that her facility utilizes several tools to indicate animals who are aggressive, "might bite" or cannot be around other animals — none of which applied to Kron. Gibbs said clinic staff were all eager to take the dog outside for walks.

The Bartletts, who testified Wednesday but did not wait for a verdict, were unavailable for comment about the outcome after the hearing. In a message to the Mail Tribune, Mary Bartlett noted she was "hoping the harassment stops," alluding to issues between neighbors.

The verdict was accompanied by a $250 fine for an at-large dog and $780 in boarding fees for the dog's stay at animal control offices, but court officials did not specify whether the fines would be paid by Harp or Rogers.

Karp on Thursday applauded Bain's attention to case details but voiced concern about commissioners being tasked with life-and-death decisions.

"Obviously, it's a cause for celebration that Kron will get to live, but it also teaches that life-and-death matters pertaining to beloved animals should not be left in the hands of untrained commissioners," Karp said.

"But rather should be presented as it was here, to a trained and conscientious lawyer and judge pro tem like Robert Bain."

Reach Medford freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.