BARRE — It was baptism by “F-bomb” for a hastily appointed animal control committee that weighed the fate of a dog described during a colorful Tuesday night hearing as part Lassie and part Cujo.
The dog — “Luna” xxx will live to bark another week, provided its homeless owner, Tim Martin, can persuade his mother to drive up from Bridport to collect his pet from the kennel where it had been quarantined with his consent after biting a Barre man on Hill Street late last month.
According to the committee’s ruling, Martin’s mother will be required to sign an affidavit swearing she is prepared to muzzle and leash the dog — a mix of pit bull and Great Dane — whenever it is outside and keep it in a secure enclosure when it isn’t. Luna is forever banned from Barre and the committee agreed the Bridport Select Board should be notified of her looming arrival. If for some reason the dog is not retrieved in the next week it will be put up for adoption, and if those efforts are unsuccessful it will be euthanized.
Following a brief deliberative session that is how Tuesday night’s hearing in the second-floor meeting room at Alumni Hall ended. However, Jake Hemmerick’s orderly recitation of the conditions agreed to by the three-member committee appointed minutes before the hearing was scheduled to start was at odds with the chaotic hour-long session that preceded it.
Just about the only thing that wasn’t in dispute during a quasi-judicial proceeding filled with expletives aimed at almost everyone was that Luna bit Mark Cyr on May 26 and Cyr reported the bite, which required medical attention to local authorities two days later.
Even Martin, who arrived late and was ejected early — offering an “(expletive) you all” to the committee that held his pet’s life in its hands as he strode out the door — conceded that much.
However, Martin said the episode wouldn’t have happened had he been present and was out of character for Luna.
“My dog has never been an aggressive dog,” he said, noting Luna had been staying with his brother-in-law on Hill Street after giving birth to six puppies.
“She’s overreacting to her first litter,” he said even as Cyr’s wife, Kim, drew the hearing’s first expletive by repeatedly asking an uncomfortable question.
“What if that was a child?” she asked drawing the hearing’s first expletive.
There were plenty more where that came from and Martin spread them around. More than a few were aimed at two men, Brandon Frost and Brandon Kyle Styres, who attended the hearing to vouch for his dog.
Neither of the two men knew Luna particularly well and both were instructed to leave for their own bad behavior before Martin was ejected.
“I’ve spent less than a week with this dog and (s)he’s never attacked me once,” Styres said, suggesting Luna was protecting her puppies when the bite occurred before Martin said that wasn’t what happened.
Frost advanced a “postpartum depression” defense of Luna.
“It’s a real biological thing,” he insisted before an inexplicable attempt to link the bite to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Shut the (expletive) up,” Martin said, using similarly harsh language when Frost suggested he’d engage a lawyer to defend the dog that “literally saved my life.”
Frost credited Luna with pulling him out of the water and presumably saving him from drowning.
It might have been better for Luna if the defense had rested out of the gate and if it wasn’t for an assist from Police Chief Tim Bombardier the hearing might have ended differently.
Bombardier urged Martin to focus on providing the committee composed of Hemmerick and fellow City Council members Michael Boutin and Ericka Reil, some assurance Luna could be controlled.
“Pitch what you’re going to do to make sure this is never going to happen again,” he said.
Martin said he’s planning to move with his dog to South Dakota early next month and in the meantime his mother could care for it at her home in Bridport.
It was the beginning of a plan that three animal experts agreed could work if you added a requirement the dog be leashed and muzzled at all times.
The committee eventually heard from all three of them, including Samantha Punchar, the city’s animal control officer, Michelle Boyer, who owns the kennel in Orange where Luna was quarantined and remains, and Sheila McGregor.
During her short stay at Boyer’s Kennel — at first with her puppies and then without them — the dog bit a catch pole in half, lunged at McGregor and displayed concerning behavior.
Boyer told the committee it appeared rooted in fear, not aggression, and may be amplified by Martin’s admitted anxiety issues.
Punchar said she has seen two sides of Luna.
“I’ve seen her in the presence of people that she loves, and she loves them,” she said. “For people she doesn’t know, she’s intimidating.”
Punchar said not playing well with strangers was cause for concern and while she didn’t object to Martin’s mother taking the dog in under the conditions that were ultimately imposed, she was openly wary of the prospect.
“I would not want to live next door to her,” Punchar said of Martin’s mother. “I have three children, and I wouldn’t want that dog living next door to me.”
McGregor was even more blunt.
“I do genuinely think this is a really dangerous dog,” she said.
Like his wife, Mark Cyr said his primary concern were for children in the neighborhood.
“The dog lost it once. I’d hate to see someone else, especially a kid, get (b)it,” he said.
Though Martin was tossed from the hearing during an angry exchange, he returned for the verdict and appeared confident he could satisfy the conditions imposed by the committee.