Tisbury selectmen will hold hearing for dogs that attacked woman, child

Junior, one of three American bulldogs involved in an attack, was held at the Tisbury dog pound Tuesday. — Photo by Catey McCann

On Tuesday, Tisbury selectmen will determine the fate of three American bulldogs that attacked Yuliya Bilzerian and her 18-month-old son on Saturday, June 13. The attack occurred on the property where she lived off State Road in Tisbury, which belongs to her father-in-law, Kenneth Bilzerian.

Ms. Bilzerian, 28, who is pregnant, was airlifted to Boston as a precautionary measure to receive treatment for a puncture wound to the head and neck. Her young son was treated in the Martha’s Vineyard Hospital emergency room for a significant bite wound to his leg.

Initially, Tisbury Animal Control Officer (ACO) Laurie Clements ordered the three dogs quarantined and restrained on the property for 10 days under the custody of Mr. Bilzerian.

This week, one of the dogs was quarantined in the town pound. After meeting with Tisbury Town Administrator Jay Grande, Ms. Clements, who initially said she would not request a hearing, filed a request on the recommendation of Mr. Grande.

“I think it’s important to have the meeting and hear the control officer directly on what took place, in terms of the incident, and allow others who are concerned about it to attend and speak up and be heard,” Mr. Grande told The Times in a phone call. “It will be an opportunity to raise concerns about the incident, and concerns about public safety, and what’s going to happen with these animals and so forth.”

The hearing is scheduled for 6 pm, during the regularly scheduled meeting.

Town administrator pushed

Mr. Grande and Ms. Clements met Monday. At that time, Mr. Grande asked Ms. Clements to quarantine the dogs and have an expert evaluate them to determine “aggressiveness and risk to the public.” Mr. Grande said he indicated his concern about public safety to Ms. Clements.

On Wednesday, the dog that initiated the attack was being held at the Tisbury dog pound. The other two dogs were under a continued in-house quarantine on the Bilzerian property, meaning they are only allowed outside on-leash to relieve themselves.

Mr. Grande said he had received two additional incident reports regarding the dogs attacking other dogs. He said selectmen are very concerned about the matter.

The Tisbury town clerk confirmed Ken Bilzerian owns four dogs, and all are licensed and have up-to-date shots. The breed is identified as American bulldog.

Future of the dogs

The dog that initiated the attack on Ms. Bilzerian and her son on the property of Ms. Bilzerian’s father-in-law will likely be euthanized, Ms. Clements said.

Ms. Clements said everyone involved is in agreement that the dogs “have to go.” She said Mr. Bilzerian chose to quarantine the dog that attacked his daughter-in-law at the pound, and it will remain there until decisions regarding the dog’s future are made.

“They’re going to put him to sleep,” she told The Times Tuesday. “They were going to do it today — I was going to bring him down because they just can’t do it — but the daughter-in-law, Yuliya, doesn’t want to put him to sleep.”

Ms. Clements said Ms. Bilzerian is looking into no-kill shelters in Boston. She said Ms. Bilzerian does not want the dog back on the property, but she does not want it killed either.

On Wednesday, Ms. Clements said she was prepared to have that dog euthanized once she heard from Ms. Bilzerian regarding her efforts to find a shelter.

Ms. Clements said she does not think the family plans to keep any of the dogs.

Wrong place, wrong time

According to Ms. Clements, the dog attack on June 13 was not an attack at all. Although she didn’t want to minimize the incident, Ms. Clements said that Ms. Bilzerian and her son were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Ms. Clements was not on the scene during the incident, but she said she has spoken to the police, Ms. Bilzerian, and her father-in-law. By Ms. Clements’ account, Ms. Bilzerian and her son were standing by the garage, and when she turned around, one of the dogs that has always frightened her was there, which caused her to scream “bloody murder.” Mr. Bilzerian ran down the hill in reaction to the screams, and his two other dogs followed him. The three dogs subsequently began fighting one another, and when Ms. Bilzerian bent over to pick up her child, that is when she and her son were, in Ms. Clements’ opinion, “accidentally” bitten.

“This was not an attack on humans,” Ms. Clements told The Times in a phone call Monday. “They have never shown aggression toward humans, ever.”

Ms. Clements said Ms. Bilzerian was airlifted to a Boston hospital as a precaution because she was pregnant.

“I treated it as a routine dog bite, because to me that’s what it was, because these people were not attacked, they were not mauled,” Ms. Clements said. “They had a couple of puncture wounds; to me that is not a mauling.”

Ms. Clements said after speaking to all those involved, she believed it was simply a matter of poor timing.

“She unfortunately was in the wrong place at the wrong time. She happened to be right smack next to the dogs when they all started fighting with each other,” Ms. Clements said. “She was just too close and unfortunately got bitten, along with her son. I’m not trying to minimize it, but that’s just how it was.”

According to the police report, the woman and her son were walking toward the garage when she encountered the large black bulldog, and startled, she screamed.

“The large black dog then reportedly bit Mrs. Bilzerian’s son in the right calf, causing severe injury. Mrs. Bilzerian subsequently covered her son with her body and sustained bites to her right thigh, right calf, left side of her neck, scalp, and abdomen; it should be noted Mrs. Bilzerian is 27 weeks pregnant,” Officer Jeremy Rogers said in the police report.

Ms. Clements said referencing a police report to describe a dog call would be like using an animal control officer’s report on an ambulance call or a shooting.

“The police report was incorrect, and we’ve had several meetings about this since then,” she said. “I have straightened the town administrator out with the correct information, as well as the police.”