, Salem, MA

Local News

January 29, 2008

Selectmen order one dog killed; second gets reprieve

MARBLEHEAD - In an extraordinary hearing last night, the Board of Selectmen reluctantly pronounced the death penalty for one dog and held off - for now - on another.

On Jan. 8, Carol Bouchat said Jessie, a German shepherd, attacked her while she was out walking her dog. The dog knocked her to the ground, tearing at her leg and sending her to Salem Hospital.

The animal was unanimously ordered put to death in 10 days.

Easier said than done, however. Owner Anthony Schepsis had taken the dog to somewhere in New York in defiance of the orders of police Chief Robert Picariello. Schepsis himself said his lawyer, Jeremy Cohen, will soon leave Marblehead.

The selectmen had to review their options in this case and another one involving a second dog accused of biting up to four people because such hearings are so rare.

"I love dogs," Selectman Bill Woodfin said as he voted to put down both animals.

Reading a statement, Bouchat last night described Jessie charging down a hill.

"The dog was clearly focused on me. It rose to its full height. ... The animal went for my right calf, biting, tearing and crushing with its teeth before pulling me to the ground."

On a cell phone at the time, Bouchat described how the person on the other end of the phone called 911. She also received first aid from the dog's owner, who is a surgeon, Cohen said.

"I am not out of the woods from this assault," said Bouchat, describing still open wounds. "I have relived the attack over and over again in both my waking and my sleeping hours." Though an animal lover, she asked that Jessie be killed.

She likened Schepsis' decision to move his dog out of town to Catholic bishops who moved dangerous pedophile priests from parish to parish.

Cohen pleaded that the dog is territorial and wasn't after Bouchat, but her pug.

"Her calf got in the way of a dog bite," he said.

"You're blaming the victim," Selectman Jackie Belf-Becker said.

Schepsis understands the problem, Cohen said, which is why he moved the dog "out of Dodge." Jessie will now undergo training, he said.

Two other women described vicious attacks by Jessie on their dogs. Animal Control Officer Betsy Tufts called Jessie a "sleeper cell," involved in an incident in 2001, then quiet until a series of attacks in 2007.

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