HALIFAX —Selectmen ordered “Rufus,” an American Bulldog owned by Thomas Wilson of Holmes Street, to be euthanized after hearing evidence in a dog-on-dog attack concluding a dog hearing during their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, April 9.
The more than hour-long hearing, with three police officers present, appeared to exhaust the many witnesses and selectmen present. The hearing was clearly upsetting to Rufus’ owner, Thomas Wilson, a tall man who spoke in a booming voice, and his girlfriend, who was present for the hearing.
The dog-on-dog attack occurred Saturday, March 16. Joseph Botelho, of Doris Road, was walking his dog, a Rat Terrier named “Penny,” near the intersection of Annawon Drive and Holmes Street, in front of Lindy’s General Store in the early evening.
Officer Rob McDonnell happened to be in a cruiser at Lindy’s that night, and said he witnessed a dog, identified as Wilson’s, escape from a fenced-in area and attack Botelho’s dog, “swinging her like a rag doll,” that occurred just as Botelho walked by McDonnell’s cruiser.
McDonnell immediately came to their assistance, he said.
Wilson said that Rufus escaped from his house when his girlfriend went out for a cigarette.
“[Rufus] grabbed my poor dog and shook her like a rag doll,” said Botelho, echoing the officer’s testimony to the board.
Pictures of Penny’s injuries, which caused the Selectmen visible distress, showed what appeared to be serious injuries to her hind quarter.
Penny, who is doing much better, said Botelho, needed more than $4,600 in veterinary treatment. Rufus was not properly inoculated which caused additional expenses.
After the attack, Wilson was issued a citation by Animal Control Officer Noreen Callahan for having a vicious and unlicensed dog, second violation, for $110, and the dog was home quarantined.
“I’m a dog lover, and I’m sorry this happened,” said Wilson, but his various explanations and eventual pleading with the board would not sway them.
The board keyed in on the fact that this was not Rufus’ first attack on another dog.
In 2017, Rufus attacked a different neighbor’s dog, which resulted in a dog hearing that Wilson did not attend.
While Wilson insisted repeatedly on debating whether or not his dog was “aggressive” or just “dog-aggressive,” as he put it, this ultimately did not matter to the board.
He said that he had fixed his defective gate, but this was disputed by Callahan. He then said he had a wooden pallet to block the gate for more security, but no one present had ever witnessed the pallet. He begged the board for a chance to enroll Rufus in dog training, but they would not budge.
Selectman Chairman Kim Roy said that Rufus “mauled” Penny several times. She added that if Wilson could not come up with the $10 to license his dog, she did not think that he would ultimately enroll the dog in training classes.
“I’ll borrow it from my girlfriend,” said Wilson. When Selectman Troy Garron asked him why he had not borrowed the money yet, he responded, “Have you ever had to ask to borrow money from your wife? It’s hard.”
Garron, an animal lover who said he had been around dogs his whole life and used to train police dogs when he was a police officer, said that dogs reflect the personalities of their owners.
“If you can’t handle a dog that’s aggressive, you should not have that dog – it’s not fair to the dog,” he stated.
“I’ve had the dog eight years and only two incidents occurred,” exclaimed Wilson.
“It was a mauling!” replied Roy.
At one point, Officer McDonnell hushed Wilson, who replied, “She’s the one you should tell not to start,” referring to Roy.
Selectman Tom Millias, who in the past usually observes dog hearings quietly and then offers his thoughts toward the end, was no different this time. When Roy asked him if he had anything to add, he said, “I don’t think I have much more to offer,” but later engaged with Wilson.
“It appears you don’t have control over the dog at all times, and that’s a problem for me,” he said.
“Let me prove to you … give me an opportunity!” Wilson begged the Selectman, but to no avail.
“You had two years to do that,” said Millias.
Roy asked Callahan for her recommendation, and it appeared that she was trying to give Wilson a chance to prove himself, but he interrupted her repeatedly and she acquiesced to the board.
Roy also asked Animal Inspector Brian Kling, who had interacted with Wilson and Rufus, for his opinion. “I’ll be blunt,” he said, “I don’t think Mr. Wilson should have a dog.”
Roy then entertained a motion to euthanize Rufus, and the board voted unanimously to order the dog put down.
In conversations with board members after the vote, all expressed difficulty coming to the decision, and none took the matter lightly.
“Dog hearings are my least favorite part of this job,” said Millias.
“I hate having to put down an animal,” said Roy, but noted it was the job of the Selectmen to protect the citizens (and dogs) of Halifax.
In other Halifax Board of Selectmen news:
• Representative Kathy LaNatra visited the Selectmen. She was originally scheduled last meeting to attend with State Senator Michael Brady, and the Board reiterated issues that they had presented to him to address to her as well, including the ongoing issue of cars passing stopped school busses loading and unloading children.
• Marge Smith was appointed to the Council on Aging.
• Noreen Callahan was reappointed Animal Control Officer.
• The next scheduled meeting of the Halifax Board of Selectmen is Tuesday, April 23, in the Selectman’s meeting room of Town Hall. The time is still to be announced.