AYER — The Board of Selectmen determined Wednesday that Conor LaHiff’s three-year-old dog Tiger was dangerous after it attacked another dog and its owner last month. The board then voted unanimously to order that the dog was to be leashed and muzzled any time it was outside.
Lahiff and Brenda Alcott, the woman who said she and her dog were bit by Tiger, both spoke during the board’s public hearing on the incident at Ayer Town Hall. The hearing was for both parties to present their sides of the story with neighbors and friends offering witness accounts and information on Tiger, a pit bull-Bassett hound mix..
The incident occurred on March 8 at Longview Circle. According to the Ayer Police Department, Alcott was walking her 11-year-old dog, Gunner, along the neighborhood around 6:15 a.m. She told police that Tiger ran up to Gunner and started attacking the dog. Alcott said Tiger bit Gunner multiple times and when she tried to break the two dogs up, Tiger bit her right calf and broke the skin, causing her to bleed. She said that LaHiff came over to get Tiger and didn’t appear to care that she and her dog were injured by his dog before putting Tiger in his car and driving away.
According to Animal Control Officer Julie Thomas, LaHiff told her on the day of the incident that he put Tiger in his car before leaving his house nearby where Alcott was walking Gunner. He had left the garage door open and as he was going back into his house before leaving, Tiger ran out of the car and garage. LaHiff told Thomas that once he turned around to see that Tiger had run away, he saw Alcott kicking Tiger.
Though Thomas told him that Alcott and Gunner had injuries, Lahiff told her that Tiger only bit Alcott because she was kicking his dog.
At the hearing, Alcott was on the verge of tears when recounting the incident and telling selectmen that she and Gunner were bleeding. She also played a video clip of a door camera from a house in the neighborhood that caught audio of the incident, where she can be heard screaming and the two dogs barking at each other. She told the board that she and Gunner both required medical treatment from Tiger’s bites. Alcott noted how Tiger was not on a leash during the attack and how both she and other residents of Longview Circle have seen Tiger around the neighborhood without a leash before.
“He just can’t keep following the rules for a few days and then go back to not following them,” Alcott said.
Six other residents of Longview Circle told the board of other instances where they’ve seen Tiger walking around the neighborhood without a leash and referenced a prior attack by Tiger on another dog. Thomas confirmed that there have been two formal complaints filed by residents of Longview Circle about Tiger: one for the incident last month and another filed in August 2018. Thomas said she issued a 10-day quarantine for Tiger on the day of the incident, though she observed that Tiger “did not seem aggressive” when she issued the quarantine at LaHiff’s home.
LaHiff told the board that Tiger attends the Stand by Me Dog Daycare in Salisbury five days a week and had a letter from the daycare’s owner that stated Tiger was “one of our most even-tempered dogs.” He also brought two employees of Gemini Dogs in Littleton, where Tiger first went to day care before attending Stand by Me, who both told the board that they had no issues with LaHiff’s dog. He added that he doesn’t like confrontation so he and Tiger keep to themselves, usually going outside together at dog parks in Groton and Harvard on the weekends. As for the complaints, LaHiff told the board that he thought his neighbors were “all liars” and that he felt like he was being “attacked” by them.
“If anyone had a problem with me, they’d come to my door” he said.
Board Clerk Scott Houde saw these complaints from neighbors as a “pattern of irresponsible dog ownership” and that LaHiff wanted to just “shrug” the incident off.
Vice Chair Christopher Hillman said LaHiff’s “ignorance” of monitoring Tiger could lead to future incidents that would “escalate” and that he was “not comfortable” with Tiger’s supervision.
“I think we have an issue of negligence,” Chairwoman Jannice Livingston said. “The dog could become dangerous if it’s not already.”
Attorney Gregg Corbo, who represented the town at the hearing, laid out multiple options for the board to vote on after it deemed Tiger dangerous. The board unanimously made a motion to issue a written order effectively immediately that Lahiff keep Tiger muzzled and on a leash any time it’s outdoors before closing the public hearing.