Updated 5 pm
Superior Court Clerk Joseph Sollitto has upheld the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen’s Dec. 12 unanimous vote to humanely euthanize two pit bull–mix dogs involved in a near fatal attack on a cockapoo on Nov 24.
In a brief Jan. 18 letter to each owner, Hillary and Kaitlyn Seaton, Mr. Sollitto stated, “I find that the Order of the Oak Bluffs board of selectmen was with proper cause and was in good faith. I affirm the order of the Oak Bluffs selectmen issued 12 December 2017 that [Sasha and Rosie] be deemed dangerous and humanely euthanized.”
Mr. Sollitto’s decision comes less than a week after a Jan. 11 appeal hearing. At that hearing, Mr. Sollitto stated that he could not amend the selectmen’s vote, only uphold the decision or overrule it. The Seatons can petition for a trial in district court, which would allow new witnesses and new evidence to be introduced.
Although Oak Bluffs selectmen voted unanimously on Dec. 12 to euthanize the two pit bulls with a troublesome history, the appeal by the Seatons provided their dogs a temporary reprieve. Town bylaw states there is a 10-day appeal period after selectmen vote to euthanize a dog.
At that emotional selectmen’s meeting, people from the Worcester Avenue neighborhood showed up en masse to implore selectmen to take action, saying the dogs have “terrorized” the neighborhood for years. Chairman of the selectmen Kathy Burton said there was a “tremendous pattern” of problems with Sasha and Rosie, citing numerous complaints to police and animal control.
Complaints on file included Sasha and Rosie growling and charging at passersby, excessive barking during the night, not responding to owners’ commands, running free in the neighborhood, trapping someone in a car, and creating constant fear of attack in the neighborhood.
The final straw was when John Stevenson was walking his dog Toby on Nov. 24, and the two pit bulls escaped Hillary Seaton’s residence at 23 Worcester Ave., and viciously attacked.
Toby’s injuries were deemed life-threatening at Vineyard Veterinary Clinic, and he was transported to Bourne’s Cape Cod Veterinary Specialists for extensive surgery. Toby had numerous puncture holes on his back, his front right leg, and his left hind leg. Much of the skin was torn off his back, and half of his left ear was bitten off.
The Seatons testified before Mr. Sollitto that their dogs were loving animals and that they were seeking options ranging from intensive training to placing them in a no-kill shelter.
Falmouth-based attorney Michelle Brennan, representing Kaitlyn Seaton, said that Rosie had not been a troublesome dog before the attack, and that the only written complaint against her was a case of mistaken identity. She also said there was no record of Rosie biting a person.
Matt Jackson, representing Hillary Seaton, questioned the expertise of Oak Bluffs Animal Control Officer Patricia Grant, who began as a part-time ACO in October 2016 before taking over full-time this past July. He also questioned her use of the Dunbar Scale, which determines the severity of dog bites.
Mr. Jackson stated there are eight possible non-lethal options. “Generally speaking, euthanized animals have killed something,” he said in closing. “These are lives that are worth saving.”
Mr. Jackson and Ms. Brennan could not be immediately reached for comment on Mr. Sollitto’s decision.