Pepperell Board of Selectmen vote to euthanize dog; appeal promised

Dog owners plan to appeal decision in district court

Attorney Jeremy Cohen speaking on behalf of the Tyler family during a dangerous dog hearing at the Peter Fitzpatrick School

PEPPERELL – After a contentious set of public hearings and taking a week to overlook additional information, the Board of Selectmen unanimously deemed two local dogs dangerous, and voted to euthanize one and have the other be restrained.

The two dogs, a German shepard mix named Simba and a Vizsla-Hound mix named Brady, were allegedly involved in an attack against a German shorthaired pointer named Autumn on Dec. 20 behind the Hunt Club Way home of Autumn’s owner, Joseph Ford.

Ryan and Meghan Tyler of Old Farm Lane, the owners of Simba and Brady, denied that their dogs were involved in the attack but did acknowledge that Simba attacked another local dog back in 2017. Simba was placed on a permanent restraining order for the attack, though the Tylers said they never received notification of the order.

The board held the first part of the hearing to determine if the dogs were dangerous last Monday, Dec. 13 but held off on making a decision to take in more documents submitted to the town shortly before said meeting. The board reopened the hearing at the Peter Fitzpatrick School Tuesday night, with Chair William Greathead asking for input from the public.

Board member Margaret Scarsdale said she spoke with a veterinarian who operated on Autumn, who told her that in some cases of a sudden attack on a dog, said dog would be “so surprised” by the attack that it wouldn’t retaliate. Scarsdale went on to reference the 2017 attack and, while acknowledging a mistake made by the animal control officer in not filing a proper report on the incident, Scarsdale believed the dog was dangerous and recommended a vote for Simba to be euthanized. A lawyer for Simba’s owners said that decision will be appealed.

Greathead seemed to agree with Scarsdale’s observation, claiming that he met Autumn recently and called her a “very passive” dog, believing that if she was attacked she would not retaliate. Though he eventually made the motion to deem Simba dangerous, he did express hope that the Tylers would express their right to appeal the board’s decision and noted the error with the lack of the 2017 attack report.

“The first thing to account here is that procedure was not properly followed,” he said.

When it came to the Vizsla-Hound mix, Scarsdale reminded the board that Ford had to pull the dog off of Autumn leading her to believe the dog was dangerous. She also motioned for a vote for the hound mix to be euthanized.

“We have an obligation to keep Pepperell safe,” she said.

Greathead and board member Joe Radwich agreed that the dog should be deemed dangerous, though Greathead believed that Brady should be restrained under the conditions of Massachusetts General Law Chapter 140 Section 157. These conditions require Brady to be, according to the law, “humanely restrained” and securely confined indoors or outdoors in a locked pen. If the dog is off the premises, it must be restrained with a chain and muzzled. The owner must provide proof of insurance in an amount not smaller than $100,000, along with identifying information on the dog to the animal control officer. The dog must also be neutered.

The frequent speakers during Tuesday’s hearing were Mrs. Tyler and the Tylers’ recently-hired attorney Jeremy Cohen of Boston Dog Lawyers. Cohen made multiple points in favor of the Tylers’ dogs. He first deemed the supposed restraining order “unlawful,” according to the terms of Pepperell bylaw 81-7.1 that says temporary restraint/muzzle orders last 45 days or are pending hearings in front of the Board of Selectmen. Cohen claimed the board never held a hearing for the order and that the animal control officer at the time never requested said hearing.

He continued to offer points he discovered from observing animal control officer’s report on the attack, including the phone call Mrs. Tyler made to the officer after the attack happened where her dogs were heard being inside her home and the lack of blood and injuries on Mrs. Tyler’s dogs, nor any evidence of any blood being washed off the dogs before they were inspected.

He also claimed Autumn never had surgery to tend to her injuries, despite Ford’s testimony, and pointed out how Ford was not injured after claiming he pulled Brady off of Autumn during the attack.

“If we went to court, 98 percent of the evidence would be inadmissible,” Cohen said. “You don’t have a single photo or video of the dogs off of the property. There’s no evidence besides Mr. Ford’s testimony. What happened was horrible and I’d want to hold someone responsible, but let’s do this right.”

Cohen also spoke about a “prejudice” against the Tylers, claiming that people in their neighborhood have been trying to get them to leave. He noted that the Tylers have been getting harassing messages related to the attack.

The Tylers’ attorney said his clients were willing to accept an order from the board to follow Massachusetts General Law, requiring them to build a fence around their property and keep their dogs on a leash at all times to assure a similar situation doesn’t happen again. Cohen also suggested that if something similar does indeed happen somehow, residents should take a photo or video to submit to the authorities as evidence.

“We’ll do what the statue said, just not kill them,” Cohen said. “We’re just asking that we bring a little bit of reason here.”

Delaney Tibbetts, a veterinary technician who helped treat Autumn when she was admitted to Pepperell Veterinary Hospital after the attack, referenced a different incident that supposedly took place on July 17, 2017 in the Tylers’ barn. The incident, which Tibbetts recounted at last week’s hearing, involved one of her friends, who did not wish to be identified, being cornered and attacked by Simba.

The Tylers have ten days to appeal the board’s decision on the dogs.

Cohen said after the hearing was closed that his clients will file an appeal on the board’s decision regarding Simba. For the board’s decision on Brady, Cohen said it will be up to the Tylers as to whether or not they’ll appeal that.

Mrs. Tyler offered no comment on the decision.

Ford, who was also in attendance, said he was “expecting” the board to reach its eventual decisions and thought they were “fair and reasonable.” He did express that he “did not want this for anyone” but also did not want Autumn to be injured.