Every dog has its day. Yesterday was Max and Nikita's--in court.

In February, Max, a Doberman pinscher, and Nikita, a Siberian husky, got loose on a neighbor's ostrich farm in Fairfax County, causing a stampede that left 12 birds dead and another 12 missing.

A Circuit Court judge sentenced the animals to death, citing a law dealing with dogs that attack livestock or poultry. An appeals court judge later commuted the sentence to banishment from Virginia and contiguous states.

Yesterday, two Washington lawyers employed by the dogs' owner, Gina Park, argued a further appeal before the Virginia Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Max and Nikita remain with a caretaker in Pennsylvania, unaware that their case has become a complex legal battle.

"I would hazard a guess this is the first appeal filed before this court involving both dogs and ostriches," lawyer Lee H. Rubin said to the three-judge panel.

Park's attorneys contend that the ostriches in question shouldn't fall under the statute because they do not fit the definition of domestic livestock.

The appeals court held the birds were domestic because they were being held and fed by people. But Park's attorneys, citing definitions from scientific journals, argued that ostriches shouldn't be classified as domestic because they are not fully tamed or accustomed to living among people.