PEPPERELL – The fate of two dogs on Old Farm Lane is in the hands of the Board of Selectmen as it collects more information on an alleged attack against another dog that allegedly took place late last year.
The board held a dangerousness hearing during its meeting on Monday night and, after taking in additional information submitted before the meeting, decided to order the owners to restrain and muzzle both dogs while outside until the town finds a kennel to put the dogs in while they determine whether to euthanize the dogs.
The hearing was continued until Tuesday, Jan. 21.
“We’re doing this out of caution,” Board Chair William Greathead said. “I don’t want to condemn someone’s pet if they didn’t do something. I want to look at this more.”
The “something” in question is an attack that supposedly took place on Dec. 20 at about 3:30 p.m.
According to the incident report written by Animal Control Officer Mary Letourneau, the incident involved a 10-year-old German Shorthaired Pointer named Autumn owned by Joseph Ford of Hunt Club Way, a German Shepard mix named Simba and a Vizsla-Hound mix named Brady owned by Ryan and Meghan Tyler of Old Farm Lane.
Ford claims that Simba and Brady were attacking Autumn behind his home, causing him to physically pull Brady off of Autumn. Ford then took Autumn to Pepperell Veterinary Hospital while the other two dogs, along with a Black Labrador mix named Sadie that did not attack Autumn, ran off into the woods towards Old Farm Lane. Autumn had to have emergency surgery due to the serious injuries she suffered from the attack, according to the report.
Letourneau said in her report that the Tylers denied that it was their dogs involved in the attack and noted that there were no injuries or traces of blood found on the dogs when she inspected them later that day.
Mrs. Tyler told Letourneau that her dogs were in her home during the day but she did see a couple of dogs running around nearby.
Simba had been placed on a permanent restraining order in the spring of 2017 for attacking a dog owned by Ken Hartlage and Lucy Chan of Prescott Street.
Though Letourneau said that she did not find dog tracks or blood between the Tylers’ home and Ford’s home, Ford showed a video at the meeting that he took the day of the incident showing dog tracks and bits of blood leading from his home to the Tylers.
Ford said he was concerned about the “viciousness” of the attack and the concern for his family’s safety.
“The decision we’re asking you guys to make is not one made lightly,” he told the board. “If I were on the other side of this, I’d be devastated that I allowed my animals to do such a thing and be asked to put my dogs down because I allowed them to fail. It is an attack, not a fight. This was a mauling, my dog did not stand a chance against three dogs. These dogs came on to my property and they tried to kill my dog. They were tearing at her shoulder.”
The Tylers were accompanied at the meeting by Peter Bourque, Mrs. Tyler’s father and the owner of their property on Old Farm Lane. Mrs. Tyler told the board that she and her family never received a written notice that Simba was on any kind of restriction prior to the recent attack but did not deny that their dog “lunged” at a neighbor’s dog in 2017 when it came on the Tylers’ property and the family offered to pay the medical bills from the incident.
Ryan said that he was contacted on the day of the attack by Letourneau notifying him of the incident and that, as far as he knew, all three dogs were in the Tylers’ house. Meghan then went back to the house to check on the dogs, who would’ve had to have gone through three different doors in the house to escape the property. Ryan later saw Ford following the supposed trail back to his house covered in blood and telling him about the supposed attack.
“I said, ‘I’m really sorry. As far as I know, my dogs are in the house. I know nothing about this incident,’” he explained. “I was positive my dogs were in the house, there’s no way they could’ve done this.”
Ryan added that he and his wife often see other dogs walking nearby their property and that his dogs had never left the house that day. Bourque noted that he walked around the property and saw no trace of blood from the attack. From this, Meghan said that there was “no evidence” tying her dogs to the incident. Despite this, Mrs. Tyler said that she and her family have been receiving harassing messages on social media and in public from this incident.
“We travel with them, we go to horse shows with them, they stay with us for days at a time, I go running with them and I’ve never had an issue,” Mrs. Tyler said about her dogs. “If I ever thought for one second that this dog was a dangerous dog to anybody, there’d be no way I’d have him near our two-year-old.”
Residents in the audience spoke out either in defense of the accused dogs or noting how serious the attack was.
Delaney Tibbetts, a veterinary technician who tended to Autumn when it was admitted to Pepperell Veterinary Hospital, said the dog’s injuries were not “wounds of play” but an attack of “flat-out aggression.”
Tibbetts also noted how Simba had a prior history of aggression from a friend, who told Tibbetts that she wanted to stay anonymous, that was cornered and attacked by the Shepard on July 17, 2017 in the Tylers’ barn.
“Proper management of dogs that can display aggressive behavior isn’t easy and I’m not saying that the Tylers are terrible people,” Tibbetts added. “I’m just here so that hopefully Autumn can see some justice. My hope is that she can continue to heal.”
Chan confirmed that Simba did attack her and her dog back in 2017 while they were walking. Chan said that she and her dog suffered injuries from trying to pull Simba off her dog, who did recover. Chan added that since that incident, she’s never had a problem with Simba and the other Tyler dogs. She also noted that she has never seen the Tyler dogs unrestrained.
Though the board reached its unanimous decision at the end of the night, Selectman Margaret Scarsdale said she personally felt this was a dangerous situation and first recommended immediately impounding Simba and Brady.
“My concern is for the safety of the neighborhood,” she explained. “If we have a dog that’s supposed to be permanently restrained that has already attacked dogs, I don’t have any confidence in a permanent restraint.”