By K.B. Sherman, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – In what is becoming a common issue at the Shrewsbury Board of Selectmen's public hearings, selectmen heard another complaint about an allegedly troublesome dog March 11.
Resident William Vigeant, 35 Janet Circle, had written a complaint to the selectmen regarding “Bruiser,” an Old English Bulldog belonging to Donald Benjamin, 37 Janet Circle. According to the complaint, Bruiser had twice attacked dogs belonging to Vigeant, both instances resulting in injuries to Vigeant's dogs. Vigeant was petitioning selectmen to force Benjamin to control his dog or dispose of him.
At the hearing, Vice Chair James F. Kane swore witnesses and summarized the laws under which a dog may be found to be either a non-problem, a nuisance or dangerous, and the various paths open to the board depending upon the finding.
Vigeant described the first attack as happening after someone in the Benjamin household released Bruiser outdoors, at which point it allegedly ran to Vigeant, who was walking one of his dogs, grabbed the smaller dog, and thrashed it about, “shaking it like a doll,” resulting in bite wounds to Vigeant's dog and a rush to a veterinarian for treatment.
According to Vigeant, the wound subsequently became infected and required further medical treatment. Vigeant described Bruiser as a big dog, maybe 65-70 pounds, and “too big to handle.” A subsequent attack, as described by Vigeant, occurred when Bruiser broke his leash while on a walk and attacked Vigeant's other dog, resulting in another visit to the animal hospital for treatment of abdominal bites. Vigeant then testified that he is afraid to walk his dogs because of Bruiser's behavior, and also said he is worried for small children in the neighborhood.
Vigeant noted that muzzling Bruiser when outside would be insufficient because of the dog's size and past behavior. There are no other witnesses to the two attacks reported by Vigeant.
Animal Control Officer Leona Pease explained that Benjamin had accepted financial responsibility for the injured dogs” medical treatment and expressed regret for the attacks. She related going to the Benjamin house and finding Bruiser to be subdued and non-confrontational.
Benjamin did not contest the earlier testimony, although he did dispute the dog's characteristic as “dangerous.” He told selectmen that, although Bruiser is actually about 110 pounds, the neighborhood kids play with him.
Two witnesses, including Vigeant's mother, testified that Bruiser is gentle and so laid back that he lets another smaller house dog “pull out his hair” and generally dominate him. Letters from several others were presented to the selectmen supporting Benjamin.
At the conclusion of the testimony, the board determined that Bruiser was a nuisance rather than dangerous, and asked Pease for her recommendations. The board accepted four of her six recommendations, including ordering Benjamin to crate Bruiser whenever an outside door remains open; to muzzle him when outside; and to enroll him in an obedience training program.