By Chris Jansing, NBC News correspondent
In a hotly anticipated and controversial decision, a judge in suburban Denver has spared the life of a 5-year-old German Shepherd named Rolo. But the dog and his owner are definitely on probation.
As we first reported on Tuesday, a judge ordered Rolo euthanized after a neighbor said he bit her, though the extent of the injury was in dispute. While this kind of thing happens every day across America, few owners would do what Laura Hagan did. She has spent more than six months fighting to save the dog she calls her "baby" - hiring a lawyer and often carrying protest signs on the streets of Arvada. Denver TV stations and newspapers picked up the story, sparking a media sensation that was compared to the O.J. Simpson trial. Dog-lovers joined Hagan in her protest marches, one carrying a sign that said, in true O.J. fashion, "If she wasn't bit, you must acquit."
All of it has been detailed not just by the local media, but on www.rolodog.com. The Web site allowed Hagan to collect thousands of signatures on a petition to save Rolo, and collect money to pay for his defense. She hired a lawyer, but on Tuesday was convicted by six jurors of having a dangerous dog and letting him run loose. Some neighbors had started their own petition, arguing that Rolo should be destroyed, and prospects for Rolo looked grim.
But after hearing from 11 witnesses at a sentencing hearing Wednesday, the judge decided that Rolo is not a clear and present danger to the community. Rolo will live. But the judge did order a 90-day suspended sentence for Hagan, and behavioral training classes for Hagan and Rolo. If the dog stays out of trouble for a year, Hagan won't have to serve any time in jail. She also has to get a $100,000 liability insurance policy. We're still waiting to hear when Rolo might be released.