Dog deemed nuisance after biting woman

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Officer also bitten

By Laura Hayes, Contributing Writer

ShrewsburySHREWSBURY — A two-year-old German Shepherd has been deemed a nuisance after it allegedly bit an 80-year-old woman and the Shrewsbury Animal Control Officer. 

That was a topic of discussion at a Shrewsbury Board of Selectmen meeting June 22, with other town officials in attendance. The Animal Control Officer’s written report to the selectmen, which was recently provided to the Community Advocate, provides further information.

The dog, which is about 100 lbs., is owned by Cristina Tizzano in a home on the 60 block of Worthington Avenue. 

Tizzano said she’s had Champ, who is her first dog, since he was eight weeks old. She said she’s never had any complaints about Champ before the situation with Sybil LaBaire, who was bitten.

Tizzano has lived on Worthington Avenue and has been LaBaire’s neighbor for her whole life.

“It makes me nervous, too, that my dog is going to be taken away from me,” Tizzano said during that June 22 discussion.

Animal Control Officer Keith Elmes said there hadn’t been complaints about the dog before the alleged bite. 

Sybil’s son Brian LaBaire, however, said the dog has “come after” his mother in the past. When she gets her mail, LaBaire said she has to check to make sure the dog isn’t out. She can’t water her flowers, LaBaire said.

“He’s barking and growling at me at all times,” said Sybil LaBaire. “All day long from the backyard, from their bedroom, and I don’t know why.” 

According to Elmes’ report to the selectmen, Brian LaBaire called Elmes to report that his mother had been bitten on April 14. 

Tizzano told Elmes that the rear door hadn’t been fully closed, and Champ escaped, the report said.

Her mother told Elmes that she had been speaking with Sybil near the property line of their two yards.

“…[W]hen ‘Champ’ became unrestrained and approached them, she attempted to shield Sybil from ‘Champ’ before the bite occurred,” Elmes wrote. 

“The dog viciously attacked my mother,” LaBaire said. “One bite took eight stitches to close. One bite took three stitches to close, and she had black and blues all down her back from the dog jumping on her and the paws.”

According to Elmes’ report, the dog was quarantined for 10 days. Elmes said he also suggested that Tizzano schedule a visit with her veterinarian to discuss the bite. 

Elmes went to Tizzano’s home on April 23 to release Champ from his quarantine. According to the police report, Tizzano brought the dog outside on a leash so Elmes could view him and sign off on his release.

“When speaking with [Tizzano], ‘Champ,’ who was on a leash lunged forward and bit my right forearm,” Elmes wrote. “‘Champ’ immediately released and did not attempt another bite.” 

Elmes wrote that he had a “small puncture and one scratch” on his forearm. Champ was put into a second quarantine. Elmes spoke with Tizzano later that day, with her telling him that she hadn’t done any professional training with the dog and that he hadn’t previously been aggressive toward anyone. She added that she was concerned about Champ’s behavior.

“I explained to [Tizzano] that after two dog bites [she] should should consider whether she felt she should still own ‘Champ,’” Elmes wrote. 

He told Tizzano that, if she continued to own Champ, it would require a “major commitment” to control him and could be a “large personal liability risk” if there was a future incident. 

He gave her a crate and suggested that Champ be muzzled when outside, confined to the fenced-in backyard, placed on a tether and consult a trainer or behaviorist.

After several weeks Tizzano told Elmes the dog was doing well. 

Then, in early June, Sybil was spraying the pollen off her car when the dog escaped and “beelined” for her, Brian LaBaire said.

“Thank God she had that hose in her hand,” he continued. “She sprayed the hose at the dog, which deterred him for a little bit.”

LaBaire said Sybil ran for her garage, crying. Sybil LaBaire said Tizzano’s husband ran to grab the dog, and it ran down the street. 

Hearing these details, June 22, Selectman Maurice DePalo asked Tizzano if her dog had been trained. 

Tizzano said her veterinarian has recommended a trainer. 

“It’s just a little expensive,” Tizzano said. “I’m taking my children on a 10-day vacation next week, which is expensive.”

Tizzano said she installed an electric fence and used other items recommended by Elmes, like a crate. She bought a muzzle. Her dog is on anxiety medication. She takes the dog from the house on a leash and onto a 200-foot runner.

DePalo cautioned that large dogs can go through electric fences if they’re excited. An electric fence shouldn’t be used as a primary way to contain the dog, Elmes said.

Concluding their discussion, the Board of Selectmen required that Tizzano enclose her front door and install a self-closing gate on her fence. They also required that Champ be muzzled and leashed when off the property and be enrolled in training within 30 days. He must also be examined by a behaviorist. 

 

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