Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pit bull attack badly injures miniature poodle

By Elaine Thompson, Worcester Telegram & Gazette

A Knowlton Avenue pit bull got out of its owner's yard yesterday afternoon and critically attacked a leashed miniature poodle that was being walked by its owner.

Stephanie A. Moran, of 110 Harrington Farms Way, said she was walking her 8-year-old dog, Beau, down Knowlton to meet a friend who lives on the street and her dog, when all of a sudden the pit bull came charging out the yard “like a bull” and hit Beau with his head, knocking him on his back and side and began to clamp onto his belly and viciously shake him.

“There was nothing my dog did to attract this dog's attention. Beau didn't bark. He didn't run.
We were not even close to their property. He saw my friend and her dog, and his focus was there,” Ms. Moran said in a telephone interview this morning, her voice still raspy from yelling for help from neighbors.

She said her dog sustained multiple puncture wounds, one which ripped open its abdomen and severely damaged its intestines and colon. He underwent a four-hour surgery at Tufts University's Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in Grafton, where he remains.

“There are other complications as well. They said within the next four to five days we'll know if he will survive,” Ms. Moran said. “We're approaching $6,000 right now, and that's not even close to the projected total. He probably will have to have another surgery.”

Lisa and Christopher O'Connor, who live at 19 Knowlton Ave., said the gate of their fenced-in yard is normally latched and secured, but somehow the gate came open and their pit bull, named Dugg, ran out. They said they are now putting another security feature on the gate.

“This shouldn't have happened. Our dog should not have run out of the yard. But, it's not as though we allow our dogs to roam. We feel horrible about what happened,” said Mr. O'Connor, who was not at home during the incident.

Mrs. O'Connor said she ran out when she heard someone yelling. “I saw the two dogs engaged. Our dog had his mouth on their dog, and I tried to pull my dog off her dog,” she said.

She said that during her attempt to intervene, Ms. Moran's dog severed about 95 percent of the top third of her left ring finger. “As I tried to hold my finger together, her dog started chomping on my other hand,” she said.

Mrs. O'Connor said she went to UMass Memorial Medical Center — University Campus in Worcester to have the tip of her finger reattached. She said her dog was treated at VCA Northboro Animal Hospital for bites on its legs and face and contusions and cuts from two neighborhood men hitting it on the head with a wrench and clamping a large hedge clipper on its face to get it off the smaller dog.

Leona Pease, the towns' animal control officer, said the pit bull is vaccinated for rabies, but it will have to undergo the routine 10-day quarantine at its home. She said the Board of Selectmen will also probably have a hearing to determine if the dog is vicious.

The 3-year-old pit bull and a 2-year-old boxer-Boston terrier mix the O'Connors adopted from the Milton Animal Rescue League at the end of June are not licensed with the town. All dogs must be licensed by age 6. Mr. O'Connor said he thought he had six months after he got the dogs to have them licensed.

The O'Connors said they will try to do what they can to help with paying the vet bill for Ms. Moran's dog.

“I have to check my (insurance) policy. I have to see what my resources are,” Mr. O'Connor said. “I'd love to take care of it. I don't know if I can afford it. I have to check my finances.”

Update November 27, 2010 7:54am - The following article is by Elaine Thompson, Worcester Telegram & Gazette:

Dog owners’ appeal rankles

Euthanize order goes to hearing

The owner of a pit bull that killed a miniature poodle has appealed the selectmen’s order that the dog be euthanized.

The Board of Selectmen on Oct. 14 unanimously voted to have Dugg, a 3-year-old pit bull, euthanized after an attack Sept. 29 that led to the death of Beau, an 8-year-old poodle owned by Stephanie A. Moran of 110 Harrington Farms Way.

The appeal was filed in Westboro District Court and a hearing before a clerk magistrate is expected to be held sometime in January.

Yesterday, Ms. Moran, who says she is still “heartsick” over losing her companion, was surprised to learn of the appeal.

“I’m furious and I’m perplexed. I just can’t understand, with the few months they had invested in that dog —what would cause them to have such a strong commitment to that dog is just beyond me, when clearly their dog killed my dog,” Ms. Moran said during an interview in her home while Sam, the 19-month-old nephew of Beau, sat on her lap. She said the Florida poodle breeder from whom she purchased Beau felt so bad about what happened to the dog that he offered to give Ms. Moran Sam — the spitting image of Beau — if she flew down to pick up the dog.

No one answered the door yesterday at 19 Knowlton Avenue, the home of Chris and Lisa O’Connor, who own Dugg.

Ms. Moran was walking Beau on a leash in late September to meet a friend when Dugg escaped through an unlatched gate at the O’Connors’ yard and attacked the poodle, allegedly unprovoked. The pit bull grabbed the poodle’s stomach and violently shook the dog, ripping its abdomen and severely damaging its intestines and colon. Beau died at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University in Grafton a few days after he underwent a four-hour surgery.

The O’Connors paid $1,250 toward the veterinary bill. But, Ms. Moran said yesterday that she has had to take out a second mortgage in order to pay the approximately $8,000 bill. She said she has hired a lawyer who is working with the O’Connors’ homeowners insurance company to get reimbursed.

Mrs. O’Connor suffered a partially severed finger when she tried to intervene between the two dogs. Dugg was bitten by Beau and he suffered contusions and cuts to his head after two neighbors used a wrench and large hedge clippers to try to get him to let go of the poodle.

After the attack, town officials ordered the O’Connors to remove the dog from their home, which is next to Walter J. Paton School. Some neighbors had complained that they would protest outside the home if the dog were not removed. The couple returned the pit bull to the Milton Animal Rescue League, where they got it and another dog in June.

Update January 25, 2011 12:33pm - The following article is by Elaine Thompson, Telegram & Gazette:

Court upholds order to euthanize Shrewsbury pit bull

A clerk magistrate today affirmed the Board of Selectmen's decision to order the euthanizing of a pit bull that attacked and killed a miniature poodle in September.

The Board of Selectmen on Oct. 14 unanimously voted to have Dugg, a 3-year-old pit bull, euthanized after a savage, unprovoked attack Sept. 29 that led to the death of Beau, an 8-year-old 22-pound miniature poodle that was being walked on a leash by its owner, Stephanie A. Moran of 110 Harrington Farms Way.

The next month, Dugg's owners, Chris and Lisa O'Connor of 19 Knowlton Ave., filed an appeal in Westboro District Court.

The O'Connors had adopted Dugg and another dog from an animal shelter three months earlier.

The two sides presented three hours of testimony before Assistant Clerk Magistrate Dennis P. Sargent in Westboro District Court on Jan. 6.

The O'Connor's attorney, Steve M. Wise, an animal-rights attorney and law professor, did not refute that Dugg escaped from his owner's fenced-in yard without their knowledge and attacked Beau. He said the board's decision should be reversed because selectmen did not follow the letter of the law. He said Chapter 140, section 157 is a nuisance-abatement statute, not a canine criminal statute.

Mr. Wise argued that no one had filed a written complaint before the hearing that the dog was a nuisance because of a vicious disposition, as required by the statute. He also said that, in determining whether Dugg has a vicious disposition, selectmen should have considered not only the one attack, but testimony and letters from several residents who said Dugg is not an aggressive dog.

In his decision today, Mr. Sargent, noted that Dugg continued to hold onto Beau even after neighbors struck it repeatedly on the head with a 12-inch wrench, “an act indicative of extremely aggressive behavior.” He also said that “… the severity of the attack alone demonstrates that the dog has acted and can act again in an extremely vicious manner.”

Update February 3, 2011 - The following article is by Elaine Thompson, Telegram & Gazette:

Second appeal filed for condemned Shrewsbury pit bull

A second appeal has been filed in the case involving a pit bull that was ordered euthanized after it viciously attacked and killed a miniature poodle being walked on a leash by its owner in September.

After a hearing in October, all five members of the Board of Selectmen agreed that Dugg, a 3-year-old pit bull, be humanely euthanized. The dog's owners, Chris and Lisa O'Connor of 19 Knowlton Ave., appealed that decision to a clerk magistrate at Westboro District Court. Assistant Clerk Magistrate Dennis P. Sargent upheld the board's decision on Jan.25.

The O'Connor's attorney, Steven M. Wise, an animal-rights lawyer and law professor, this week appealed Mr. Sargent's decision. He has requested a trial before a judge in Westboro District Court. Mr. Wise, reached at this Coral Springs, FL., office, this afternoon said: “It's a trial that starts everything all over. It's not a review of the clerk magistrate's decision or the Board of Selectmen's decision.”

He said his appeal is based on Dugg not being a nuisance by reason of a vicious disposition, as required by the state statute. He said this was the dog's only attack.

“Even if he were vicious, it's not necessary to kill him,” said Mr. Wise. “You can do what I've done in so many other cases like this one: Order that their yard be secured so we don't have something like what happened the last time with the gate that blew open.”

In his decision, the assistant clerk magistrate said that “the severity of the attack alone demonstrates that the dog has acted and can act again in an extremely vicious manner.” He noted that after Dugg came out his fenced-in yard and without provocation attacked Beau, a 22-pound miniature poodle owned by Stephanie A. Moran of 110 Harrington Farms Way, he continued to hold onto Beau even after he was repeatedly struck on the head with a 12-inch wrench.

Dugg is being held at the Milton animal shelter where the O'Connors adopted him and another dog about three months before the attack.

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