Monday's Public Safety Committee hearing was a hybrid with some members and witnesses in City Hall and others participating remotely.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Public Safety Committee on Monday voted to euthanize two dogs deemed to be dangers to the community. A third dog has been given a chance for rehoming, if possible.
The reluctant vote came after a two-hour hearing at which testimony was taken about the dogs' general aggressive actions and attacks on visitors at the owners' home on Northern Lights Avenue. The city's Animal Control Officer Carrie Loholdt and Building Inspector William Meranti also testified.
Three dogs from the same family were the subject of the hearing to determine whether they were dangerous and, if so, what would be their disposition. The committee was assisted by attorney Gregg Corbo of KP Law, the city solicitor.
Corbo summed up the testimony given on Pretty Boy, Piglet and Crook that included attacks on people who had been invited to enter the family's home. There were at least three incidents, two in February and one in June.
"Three of the dogs attacked and bit her without warning causing physical injury," Corbo said of the first incident when the dogs attacked a guest on Feb. 19. "She testified that all three of these dogs participated. Subsequently, on Feb. 26, you heard testimony that at least two of the dogs had bitten a minor child while also an invited guest inside the house. And on June 7, that two of the dogs attacked and bit a woman while they were running loose and unattended off of their property.
"It's my position that all three dogs fit the definition of dangerousness."
Committee member Benjamin Lamb said the information they received seemed to indicate that Pretty Boy and Piglet were the primary aggressors in the incidents.
"I think two of the dogs have proven that there is a danger level there," he said, particularly referring to Pretty Boy's tendency to "have an open jaw approach to incidents." Crook, on the other hand, had only been indicated in one incident involving Loholdt.
"I'm not entirely sure what to do with that," he continued. "I think that the others do have history of multiple incidents that would in my mind deem them unsafe and there needs to be swift solving of a bad issue, whatever that looks like. With Crook, while I do think that there is some risk of unsafe behavior there, I wonder if there is an opportunity for Crook to be trained or be rehomed."
Committee member Robert Moulton Jr. agreed, "we had the owner admit that the dogs can be aggressive. ... There have been problems in the past and I don't think the owner is taking ownership of licensing and taking care of his end and he has been cited for that."
The owner had not licensed the animals nor were they up to date on their shots, according to testimony. There are also two other dogs in house that were not part of the hearing.
"The landlord even asked him to remove a couple of the dogs. I wouldn't want the dogs as my neighbor," he said. "And heaven forbid if there was ever a small child and his two dogs got out and nobody was there ... it could have been a catastrophic issues. So the two dogs, Pretty Boy and Piglet, I find are dangerous."
Chairman Jason LaForest also concurred with the assessment, but added, "I have concerns about the third puppy also, but I haven't heard evidence to the effect that he's in the same manner of dangerousness."
He was concerned about Crook's opportunity for rehabilitation but didn't think it part of the scope of the hearing.
The committee voted to declare Piglet and Pretty Boy as dangerous dogs unanimously. Corbo said they did have some options other than euthanasia, such as ordering the dogs to be humanely restrained at all times and not allowed to leave the premises without being leashed and muzzled, that the owner have proof of insurance and the dogs be neutered.
Moulton suggested turning the dogs over the animal shelter for recommendations. "I don't think the owners have shown proper responsibility throughout this whole thing and have followed up on any of the issues," he said.
Corbo said they could not order the dogs removed from the city and advised that if they were to ask a shelter or other entity to take the dogs, that they get assurance that the city would not be held liable if the dogs bit anyone else. Also, he reminded them, the animal control officer had indicated a shelter would not likely accept a dangerous dog.
"I think this is where the two issues at hand that we're addressing today sort of collide," said Lamb. "So we need the removal of at least two of the animals from the property in order to comply with the kennel ordinance. And these two dogs in particular are dangerous. ... based on the tools at our disposal, I see being very limited in what we can offer up here that meets both of those required actions."
Based on those limitations, Laforest said he would make "a very difficult motion" that Piglet and Pretty Boy be euthanized. The motion was unanimous that the dogs be put down by a licensed veterinarian and proof be provided to the city within 48 hours of the order.
Corbo still thought there was enough evidence to declare Crook a dangerous dog as well and questioned the owners' ability to protect the public. They had already expressed doubts that they could afford training, he said.
However, the committee could think outside the box, he said, "suspending your decision on the matter as to Crook and giving the owner the opportunity to have Crook evaluated by an adoption agency."
Should an agency be willing to take the dog, the agreement would have to come with sufficient safeguards to protect the city, Corbo said.
LaForest thought it might be too late for Crook, who is one year old, but Lamb said, "There's the best chance of him being rehomed if we go through that route."
The committee voted to continue the hearing on Crook until next Monday, July 13, at 4 and ordered that the dog be restrained and not allowed to leave the premises unless being taken to the veterinarian or to an evaluator. The owners were given a short window of four days to have Crook evaluated and provide that information to the city.