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Mail carrier Leah Rowland gives testimony Wednesday to the Animal Control Commission. She was attacked by two dogs while delivering mail on Ridgeway Avenue on July 31.

Animal Control Commission Votes Euthanization for Pittsfield Dog After July Attack

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Animal Control Commission on Wednesday voted to euthanize one dog and place various restrictions on another in response to a recent attack on a pregnant postal worker.

On July 31 around 3:45, mail carrier Leah Rowland was bitten multiple times by Fudge and Maggie during her route after they nudged open the screen door of their home on Ridgeway Avenue.

"I've been a postal carrier for almost seven years, I've worked in three different stations, I've transferred twice, I know the risks of the job, we have preventative measures to help with instances like this," Rowland said.

"You hear about it, you know it can happen, you just hope it never happens to you, and typically when you hear about a dog incident it's one dog one bite, one time, and I really wish something along those lines was the case, but it wasn't."

Rowland was knocked to the ground and bitten multiple times on her arms, legs, hips, torso, and back until Police Lt. Thomas Dawley, who lives down the street, heard the commotion and came to the scene.

Dawley reportedly tried to get Rowland away from the dogs with a bear hug and was also bitten during the process. Rowland reported that she was on Ridgeway Avenue about to deliver mail to the house at 3:45 p.m. and was in an ambulance by 4.

Maggie, an 8-year-old female, and Fudge, a 2-year-old male, are both pit bull mixes.  

They live at 180 Ridgeway Ave.with owner Dai Ingalls, who adopted Maggie from the Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter seven years ago and was left with Fudge when she broke up with a previous partner.

After more than an hour of emotional testimonies, the commission voted to impose restrictions on Maggie including being registered as a dangerous dog, being restrained, confined to the premises, having a fenced-in area in Ingalls' back yard, and being muzzled if off the property.

They voted to euthanize Fudge.

There was a motion on the table to euthanize both of the dogs made by Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi but it was decided that though Maggie was involved in the attack, she had less responsibility than Fudge.

Fudge is an intact male and was seen as being the instigator of the incident out of the need to protect his home.

Even as a postal worker who is trained for confrontations with animals, Rowland said the incident was brutal.

"When I reached for the dog spray, one of the dogs, I'm not sure which one, grabbed my right arm and yanks my left arm to the left, I tried to get it off with my satchel since my arm was already in the satchel, but that opened up my hip for the other dog to bite. And at some point the dog, released and got my left leg and that's what brought me to the ground," she said.

"At that point, I started screaming for help, because I was on the ground with two big dogs, I'm 120 pounds and we had just found out we were having a baby on Tuesday so I'm at this point, about seven weeks pregnant so my initial instinct was to protect my torso, and my neck, so I'm on the ground, my arm up covering my face but trying to yell for help."

Rowland said she has suffered both physical and mental injuries from the incident and has been out of work since. She reported mental disturbances such as having trouble sleeping and having to receive medical care from the attack.

"I love my job, I love my route, I love dogs, it's just hard, I wish I could say what I think should happen because dogs become part of your family, they do, I put my dogs and my Christmas cards every year," she added.

"But this can't happen to anyone else. There are so many kids in that neighborhood, older folks that just walk around."

Because the dogs did not have documentation for vaccinations, she had to receive a rabies shot and was put on antibiotics. At the meeting, her arm was bandaged up because of bite marks and she is reportedly going to physical therapy for arm and leg issues.

Ingalls, who attended the hearing, was shocked by this incident and said the dogs have never exhibited any type of aggressive behavior. She reported having friends and family over regularly with no issues.

"I've had, Maggie for seven years, and Fudge is now 2, they've been around many different people and animals, and they've never bitten anyone or ever shown any aggression," she said. "I feel awful that this happened."

Her daughter, who lives in the house with Maggie and Fudge, confirmed this at the hearing.

Dawley submitted a letter to the commission asking that the commission not vote to euthanize the dogs, citing their nonexistent record.

"I do not want to see these dogs killed for this isolated incident," he wrote.

"As far as I know, there are no reports of these two dogs attacking people, maybe the dogs should be placed in another setting where they can run and not interact with the community, training, fencing, a safety, and security plan. I am a dog owner myself and I could easily be in a similar situation as animals are unpredictable, and we will never know why they do what they do or why they behave the way they do in certain situations."

Postmaster Stefanie Curry attended the meeting in support of Rowland. She confirmed that the U.S. Postal Service has changed the order of delivery on Ridgeway because of this incident, having carriers keep their vehicles close to them near Ingalls' home for an easy out.

"I keep hearing a lot about these dogs aren't aggressive, they've never been aggressive, well they were aggressive and so that is my main concern," she said.

"Aggressive once, they will always be aggressive as far as we're concerned and the Postal Service, depending on your decision today, will depend on the mode of delivery for the rest of that street because I have to keep the carriers safe."

Curry added that she does not know if Rowland will ever be a carrier again because of trauma and because she is struggling with the use of her left hand from the attack.

In their decision-making, the commissioners recognized that this was an isolated incident but was concerned with the severity of it.

"The factors we have our two dogs that have never done this before, there's no history, we haven't had any other neighbors come forward, any complaints about the dogs until this happened," Chairman Dr. John C. Reynolds said.  

"Often, we have a history, we have no history in this case, we have a pet owner who is responding, is a responsible pet owner, shows concern, has kept them indoors, has ... it's implying they don't run the neighborhood, you know, we see that and yet, the dogs did this terrible thing."  

Morandi pointed out the severity of this situation when it happened to a trained worker and expressed concern for the outcome if it had been someone else.

"This was a trained individual that did everything right, takes training, and did everything they were supposed to do and still got attacked and the one thing that keeps coming to mind tonight was, what happens if Lt. Dawley wasn't there?" He said.

"I know that area very well being the ward councilor and there is a lot of kids in that neighborhood, there's a lot of families that's a residential neighborhood up there, and there's a lot of people who walk dogs, walk themselves and want that area, and I don't ever want to see that happen again, or have a chance."

Both Rowland and Ingalls were in tears while giving their testimony and had supporters attend the meeting. Ingalls will have the opportunity to appeal the commission's decision.

Tags: animal control,   dangerous dog,   dogs,   

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