Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Town orders pit bull to be euthanized

By Melissa Toupin, NECN

The Sturbridge Board of Selectmen has voted to euthanize Peter, a pit bull that's allegedly been terrorizing residents. But Peter's owners are vowing to save him.

Residents raised concerns over the pit bull, and police brought the tough decision before the board Monday night, Shawn Sunoski, Sturbridge town manager, says they found the dog to be "dangerous and vicious" and voted to humanely euthanize him.

Sturbridge Police Chief Thomas Ford said his department was called to the Sturbridge Hills Condominium complex about once a month since August. Each time police arrived at the home of Bruce and Yaska Pote, they found violations by the 18-month-old pitbull and black lab mix named Peter.

Sunoski says the board listened to all sides for more than two hours. He says the Potes' lawyer offered an alternative of sending the dog to a trainer in Paxton, but that was rejected.

Update July 30, 2010 4:30am - The following article is by Clive McFarlane, Worcester Telegram & Gazette:

Destruction of pet unfair to dog, owner

It is a position that might come back to bite me, but the case against Peter, the black Labrador/pit bull on death row in Sturbridge, seems like a rush to judgment.

In ordering the dog’s death on June 21, the town’s Board of Selectmen argued that Peter, who lives with his owners in a condominium complex at 6 Village Green Drive, “viciously attacked Sharon Nowak,” a neighbor, “causing personal injury.”

The board also noted that the Police Department responded to six separate calls for services related to the animal between Aug. 22, 2009, and May 10, 2010.

It sounds bad for Peter, until you start looking at the details of the charges.

The owners, Bruce Pote and Yaskara Campos, do not deny that Peter got loose on Nov. 7, and that he ran toward Ms. Nowak, who was working with a caulking gun on her front porch.

They said, and Ms. Nowak confirmed in testimony before the selectmen, that she began beating the dog over his head with the caulking gun. The owners said Peter grabbed the caulking gun from Ms. Nowak, brought it into the yard, and began playing with and biting the gun.

Peter was ordered quarantined for 10 days as a result of that incident. A police report noted that Ms. Nowak’s hand was bruised but that the skin was not broken. It also noted that she declined emergency medical services.

In another incident, on June 5, Peter again got loose and began barking at a neighbor’s poodle. According to Mr. Pote, his son retrieved the dog, but Ms. Nowak stepped out of her house to yell at the child and the dog. The dog escaped the son’s arm and ran toward Ms. Nowak and began attacking her glass sliding door, behind which she had taken refuge.

The owners said they were then ordered by the Sturbridge dog officer to move the dog out of town, which they did by putting him in the care of a friend and Paxton resident, James Isperduli.

The couple, however, brought the dog back to their condominium on June 7, after being led to believe, they said, that the town would support the move as long as they worked out the issue with the condominium association.

A day later, however, the town’s dog officer took Peter from the home, explaining that he was unlicensed and that his rabies shots had expired.

The records show the dog’s license had expired Dec. 31, but that his rabies certificate was still current. The owners subsequently renewed the dog’s license.

The dog was never released to them again, however. On June 21, the Board of Selectmen voted to euthanize the dog. The owners’ appeal of the decision before a clerk magistrate was unsuccessful. A judge is schedule to hear the case on Aug. 5.

Outside of the two incidents documented here, there is no history of the dog having attacked anyone else at the condominium complex, or anywhere else.

Richard Dumouchel, a dog officer in Dudley and the owner of Northeast K-9 Academy, signed an affidavit in which he said he had evaluated Peter, including putting him through several tests “that would cause a dog to become aggressive.”

“I would not consider Peter to be aggressive or a threat to society more than any other dog residing in the town of Sturbridge,” he concluded.

The owners also have affidavits from immediate neighbors and their cleaning lady that they have not found the dog to be vicious.

Ms. Nowak did not return telephone messages I left her.

Peter’s owner acknowledged that there clearly appears to be an issue between Peter and Ms. Nowak.

They said that when Peter was 9 weeks old, he was attacked and bitten by Ms. Nowak’s husky. They said they were also told that Ms. Nowak’s husky had been in a brutal fight with a pit bull about three years earlier.

Because of this, they do not believe the relationship between Peter and Ms. Nowak will ever improve. They believe the best thing is for them to move him out of town, which they are more than willing to do.

I think they should be given this chance to save their dog’s life. 

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