, Salem, MA

January 14, 2013

After attack, dog's fate to be decided

By Jonathan Phelps
Staff writer

---- — WENHAM — A resident wants a dog in her neighborhood put down after it attacked her and her pug while on a walk, requiring both to get medical attention.

Tracy Conley of 7 Hilltop Drive filed a complaint with town Animal Control Officer Stephen Kavanagh about the attack, which took place on Oct. 6 and involved Susan Lawson of 30 Hilltop Drive and her 5-year-old boxer, Amy. A public hearing was held Thursday night at Town Hall for Kavanagh to consider a restraint of the dog or other action deemed necessary.

“It appears that this dog cannot be controlled,” Conley said. “Based on my experiences and the stories of others, this dog is not a family pet but rather an untrained, aggressive and violent dog that needs to be put down. I am not confident that any amount of training will make me feel safe.”

Kavanagh said the matter remains under investigation and he will continue to gather both verbal and written information about Amy before a decision is made.

Conley said she was walking Lola, her 20-pound pug, on Enon Road around 4:30 p.m. when they encountered Lawson and Amy, a “very muscular boxer.”

Amy was showing signs of aggression, prompting Conley to cross the street because of previous reports of other attacks involving dogs in the neighborhood, she said.

“Susan lost control as Amy came out of her collar and leash,” Lawson said. “I immediately picked up Lola and attempted to head in the opposite direction as I was shouting, ‘No, Amy.’”

Amy circled her and attacked her and Lola multiple times, Conley said.

“At this point, Susan had no control over this wild dog, and I was terrified about what the outcome might be,” she said. “I attempted to kick Amy to escape her attack.”

A friend of Conley’s in a car assisted her by taking Lola as she got in the car to escape.

During the attack, Conley said Amy bit her several times on her left hand and back. The bites required a trip to Beverly Hospital, where Conley received seven stitches on her hand. Lola required five stitches for her bite wounds.

Conley said multiple other attacks to both humans and other dogs have been reported in the neighborhood, and many no longer walk their dogs in the neighborhood because of it.

Lawson accepted responsibility for the attack during the hearing and said she tried to stop it before Amy broke free from her collar.

“I couldn’t get a hold of Amy. She doesn’t have a tail, she doesn’t have any hair on her,” Lawson said. “I fell down at one point.”

Amy was quarantined for 10 days as a result of the attack, Lawson said.

Lawson said she has not walked Amy in the neighborhood since the attack.

“I will never, ever walk Amy in the neighborhood again,” she said. “I don’t wish to put anybody at risk, any person or animal.”

She said she’s had an adequate fence installed, changed the type of collar Amy wears and hired a dog trainer.

“I feel absolutely confident that I have total control of Amy now,” she said. “Amy has never tried to jump that fence. There is not one incident I know of where she has gotten out of the fence. So I feel quite comfortable that she is secured in the yard.”

Lawson said that Amy was bought at the advice of a medical professional after her husband, Dexter Lawson, was diagnosed with advanced Alzheimer’s. Dexter died on Thanksgiving morning.

“Amy is my constant companion, she is all I have left at this point,” Lawson said.

Town Administrator Mark Andrews said Lawson and Conley will receive a written notice about the results of an investigation, in which each have 10 days to appeal the decision. He said it is unknown how long the investigation might take.

While Lawson has agreed to pay Conley’s medical bills, Conley said she still had “nightmares” about the attack.

“The costs of fearing for your life and being safe in your own neighborhood are greater than the cost of our medical bills,” Conley said.