Edgartown selectmen find dog dangerous, order owner to post bond

— File photo by Ralph Stewart

Edgartown selectmen concluded a vicious dog hearing Monday with a vote to name Ramune, an American Staffordshire terrier, a “dangerous dog.”

The hearing was a continuation of a vicious dog hearing held on July 15 at which Amy Wales of Edgartown, owner of Tommy, a pit bull-hound cross and one of the dogs involved in the two-dog fight that precipitated official action informed selectmen she would have her dog euthanized.

Selectmen Monday imposed several conditions on Damon Burke, the owner of Ramune. They include a requirement that the dog be muzzled and on a leash at all times when it is outside. They also ordered Mr. Burke to post a $200 bond and show proof of $100,000 insurance.

“The dog officers have both testified that in their opinion it’s a dangerous dog,” Selectmen Michael Donaroma said. “I would move that we find this dog as a dangerous dog.”

Mr. Donaroma said that because the incident happened on private property inside the confines of Mr. Burke’s home, there isn’t enough evidence to euthanize the dog. “This is a sad incident,” he said. “There’s not enough evidence to put a dog down, I don’t think. It happened on private property, we don’t know who started what, who threw the first punch.”

Selectman Margaret Serpa added, “I think looking at the licences and the issues, if this dog moves then the animal control officer needs to be notified of where this dog is going so they can in turn notify the new residence of that dog.”

A new state “dangerous dog” law that took effect in October 2012 prohibits a local authority from “banishing” any dog from the city or town, a practice which leads to one town’s problem animal becoming another’s.

Public Testimony

“What I’m trying to get through my head is, I’m hearing from the dog officers, that we should be hearing this as a dangerous dog. You might want to tell us why your dog isn’t dangerous,” Selectman Donaroma said to Mr. Burke. “Our concern is the community.”

“The first instance that they were involved in, my dog was muzzled, and she was attacked fairly viciously, as she was muzzled,” Mr. Burke said. “This was unfortunately described in the quarantine report as a fight.” Mr. Burke presented photos of Ramune’s injuries from the incident to selectmen.

Animal control officer Jennifer Morgan was on duty July 6 and responded to the call about a dog fight even after a second call from the communication center that a response was no longer needed. Selectmen asked Ms. Morgan to elaborate on her decision to respond despite the cancelled call for help. “I chose to continue to respond because I was almost there at that point. I thought it was the responsible thing to do, just to make sure that they didn’t need more assistance,” Ms. Morgan said Monday.

Ms. Morgan expressed her opinion of Ramune. “I wholeheartedly believe this is a dangerous dog,” Ms. Morgan said. “It’s an aggressive dog.”

Joseph Jims of Oak Bluffs also attended the Edgartown hearing. Referring to a past incident that that led to a dog hearing in Oak Bluffs, he told Edgartown selectmen that Ramune attacked his two Jack Russell terriers as he walked them on a leash near his home on the evening of May 20, 2012.

“This dog, that Mr. Burke owns, attacked my dogs in Oak Bluffs,” Mr. Jims told selectmen Monday. “It was loose, it attacked, it came in, head down, ripped my dogs leg off. It was amputated. My feeling is that Mr. Burke is saying this dog isn’t dangerous towards humans. It’s not, it’s dangerous against dogs.”

He added the human impact will be the effect on another pet owner when Ramune attacks another dog.

Mr. Burke told selectmen he has been keeping Ramune confined to a crate in a locked room in his house since the dog was released from quarantine.

Selectmen said they would approve and sign the official dangerous dog designation when they meet on Monday.