Tisbury dog declared dangerous 

Bill Brigham appointed acting police lieutenant.


Updated July 15

Tisbury’s select board voted unanimously Tuesday evening to declare a white German shepherd named Ranger a dangerous dog following two bite incidents near the Black Dog Tavern.

In a 2-1 vote, the board stopped short of a euthanasia order, and set several conditions for Ranger and his owner, Andrea Peraino. Select board member Roy Cutrer, who expressed concerns Ranger might “fatally wound a young child,” was the dissenting vote. The vote came after a hearing at which two female bite victims gave emotional testimony about what they each described as surprise attacks from behind by Ranger that left them injured and shaken.

Peraino testified about the steps she had taken in the wake of the bites, including enrolling Ranger in a behavior modification program and the construction of a three-way entry point for better containment. Peraino’s attorney, Jeremy Cohen of Boston Dog Lawyers, didn’t dispute the bites occurred. Cohen told the board the bites Ranger inflicted, while “horrible,” didn’t rise to such a level that Ranger could be deemed an “extremely dangerous” dog. He advocated for “remedial measures,” and pointed out Peraino had already taken significant steps to ensure Ranger doesn’t bite someone again. 

Select board member Larry Gomez agreed the wounds the dog inflicted were bad. He went so far as to say he was “horrified” at photographs of one of the victim’s wounds. Gomez said he felt sorry for the two women who were bitten.

The first of the two bite victims testified that she was a dog lover who “is afraid of dogs now.” 

The woman said, “After looking down and seeing those large white teeth sink into my flesh, it’s not something I can put out of my mind very easily.” She said she found it to be “mind-boggling” that somebody else could be bitten by the same dog in the same area just two days after she was bitten. 

“I really question whether the people who own and care for this dog understand what a danger he is to the community,” she said.

Tisbury Animal Control Officer Kate Hoffman told the board the call regarding the first bite incident came in on May 26 from Peraino. When Hoffman arrived at the scene, which was outside Peraino’s apartment at 20 Beach St. Extension, she said she was told by Peraino that Ranger had burst through a door and bit a woman on the leg. The victim had already left for the hospital, Hoffman said. Hoffman said she fined Peraino $25 for an unleashed dog and $25 for an unlicensed dog, and placed Ranger on a “10 day in-home rabies quarantine.”

In an interview with the victim, Hoffman said she was told an all-white German shepherd came running down a flight of exterior stairs and bit the woman on the “right thigh and buttocks area” as she was heading to the entrance of the Black Dog Tavern. 

“She was treated at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital for puncture wounds, scrapes, and bruising,” Hoffman said. She added the victim received a tetanus shot and a dose of antibiotics. 

The second bite victim got upset recounting to the board what happened to her, and began to weep. She eventually turned her camera off to testify. 

She described herself as a dog lover who, coincidentally, had two white German shepherds that were recently put down for health reasons.

The second woman said she thought she might have been struck by a car until the dog growled and shook its head as it bit her “several times and tore her pants.”

She said the attack left her with post-traumatic stress. She expressed bafflement at how the dog could escape from home quarantine, and said Ranger was, in her opinion, a danger to anyone in the area.

Hoffman said on May 28, a call came in from the Sheriff’s communications center about another bite incident. Hoffman said she arrived on scene to find the victim being treated by Tisbury EMS. Hoffman interviewed the victim on scene, and learned she was parking a bicycle outside the Black Dog Tavern when the dog burst through a door, ran down an exterior flight of stairs and bit the woman on her thigh before running away, with Peraino chasing after it. 

“She described the dog as a large, white German shepherd,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman said the victim received further treatment at a doctor’s office, including antibiotics and a tetanus shot.

Ranger was quarantined in the town kennel until June 5, Hoffman said and Peraino was fined again under the town’s leash law. Hoffman said there was also a $35-a-day fee for boarding the dog at the kennel.

Hoffman said photographs of both the victims’ wounds “showed very severe bruising with visible teeth marks.”

Peraino said she understood the perspective of the victims. “There is no denying this is a terrible situation — absolutely not,” she said. “It’s awful.”

Peraino said the dog wasn’t at fault, that a “secure, three-point entryway” was in place in another portion of the apartment where they had lived for some time. However, she said she and her boyfriend had recently gained access to another area of the building, and that was served by a screen door with a “faulty latch.” It was this door Ranger got through, she pointed out.

Cohen told the board Peraino has spent $5,000 on a behavior modification program for Ranger, has neutered him, and has medicated him. Cohen noted the screen doorway and stairs leading from it recently were reconstructed with a three-way entry point. He produced a photograph of the work.

Cutrer expressed concern about the town’s liability should the dog bite another person. “A dog of this nature should not be in a congested area,” Cutrer said. “I see the fencing and the improvements that were made to try and prevent it from happening, but the key word there is to try. You cannot guarantee that this won’t happen again … what if next time it’s a young child? What if it’s a toddler?”

Town counsel David Doneski informed the board that he could not rule out liability for Tisbury if the dog bites somebody again. “Our lives would be destroyed if this dog ever hurt a child,” Peraino said. “We would never allow that.” 

Though the prospect of an order to euthanize the dog hung over the proceeding, the board opted to go with recommendations made by Hoffman. 

Among the conditions the board adopted were the requirement of durable, doubled-gated entries where the dog lives, that the dog wear a basket muzzle outside the home, and be restrained with a minimum 300-pound tensile-strength leash and wear a dangerous dog collar or harness. Further, Ranger must be registered at whatever municipality he goes to if his owner moves. The owner must insure Ranger against liability for at least $100,000. The conditions will be deemed valid across the state, and if another bite occurs, the Tisbury animal control officer can seize Ranger. 

The board’s decision didn’t sit well with the first bite victim. “I think it’s really really disrespectful to say that the next time there’s going to be an insurance policy, and there’s going to be action taken,” she said. “Meanwhile there are two of us who are still nursing injuries from this dog. I’m just perplexed.”

Brigham becomes second in command

On the recommendation of interim Police Chief Christopher Habekost, the select board voted unanimously to appoint Det. Bill Brigham to acting lieutenant for a period of up to six months.

Habekost told the board Brigham “has been doing a very good job” at the department and possesses “a wealth of knowledge and experience.”

Habekost said he has a good working relationship with Brigham. 

Brigham thanked town administrator Jay Grande and the board. He said he was enthused to work with Habekost.

“I think it’s going to be a really good team,” he said. “We have a really good group of professional men and women at the Tisbury Police Department, so I’m really looking forward to this role.”

Brigham said he and Habekost have the support of the department, “which is important.”

He thanked his wife and daughter for accepting the demands that come with police work. 

Grande told the board he met with the union and Habekost to discuss the lieutenant position, and not only found support but a belief the position was “key to moving forward.” 

Even though the union supports the position, Grande said some negotiation will be necessary.

“This position is no longer included on the approved management and professional scale or the staffing plan for the Tisbury Police Department,” Grande said. “So following this meeting, we’ll need to enter into impact bargaining with the police union.” 

Brigham becomes the third lieutenant in the department’s history. Ted Saulnier was the first to hold the role, just after the turn of the millennium, when he served under Chief John McCarthy and ultimately succeeded him. In 2013, Eerik Meisner became the next lieutenant. For reasons that remain opaque, Meisner was demoted to sergeant and then terminated by former Tisbury Police Chief Mark Saloio. Following a federal lawsuit, Meisner went on to settle with the town for $400,000. 

Updated to correct the name of the Boston Dog Lawyers attorney.


  1. Wrong decision which could eventually cause even more problems for Tisbury if law suits were brought against the town. I’m a dog lover too but when a dog bites 2 people, sending them to the hospital the dog should be euthanized. I agree, what if it had been a toddler? Since when does a dog’s life take precedence over people?

  2. If I were the person bitten, you can bet my attorney would have been there and I would have sued the dog owner for at least $300,000. Those wounds could take a lifetime to heal.

  3. It is unfortunate that the dog will suffer the consequences because of the owners inability to live in reality. Before becoming a dog owner humans should educate and familiarize themselves on the responsibilities entailed in caring for a dog. Dogs especially large dogs need to be socialized with humans and other dogs, room to roam and exercise to be happy and healthy. It is unreasonable to believe confining Ranger to an apartment or the yard will accomplish this. In my experience it is not the nature of dogs to be aggressive it is the human owners failures which create unmanageable dogs. This is not Rangers fault, in a proper environment this dog could be happy and friendly. Do the right thing and find an appropriate home for Ranger before he pays the price for his owners ineptitude.

    • As a former dog trainer I learned very quickly that it was the unskillful humans not the dogs who were always the culprit in behavioral problems. A dog becomes “a menace” because the human has failed him as an owner. Many well meaning, good people get dogs and never teach them basic obedience. A dog needs calm assertive leadership. It always saddens me to see a situation like this. This dog needs to be rehomed with someone who can rehabilitate him.

  4. I’m not surprised to hear that this menace of a dog brutally attacked other people and caused severe injuries- this dog bolted across 5 Corners from the Black Dog and leapt at me- without biting- but scared the s–t out of me! I yelled at the woman, told her the dog was a menace and should be locked up- this was 2 years ago!

  5. I totally agree with Mark Acker, Plus I would sue the two selectmen who voted not to immediately permanently nuterlized the dog after seeing the evidence and hearing the testimoney of both victims!!
    Good job Roy for your logical decision.
    These dog biting incidences in Tisbury have been going on for many many years because some of the Selectman were buddie buddies with the do owners!
    Good start Roy.. That is the kind of change in leadership we need and have been totally lacking in Tisbury!
    Please keep reporting on these issues MV Times as I am quite sure Tisbury voters will start electing totally different representatives.

  6. Mark Acker-where on earth did you come up with $300,000 and ” wounds to take a lifetime to heal”? Do you know the extent of injuries? I just have knee jerk reaction to SUE SUE SUE!

    I agree with Steve Gallas, people should be more aware of the dog breed they adopt, some just require more training, socialization ect. to be good canine citizens.
    Maybe Ranger never gets exercise?
    That’s one thing that bugs me about dog owners, especially large dogs, they don’t always get the attention and exercise they need. I’m not saying they don’t love their dogs but part of owning and loving a dog, is exercise and training.

    • You are so right, Gail. It all begins with the on leash walk. Every dog needs to be tough how to walk on the leash without pulling.
      This requires basic obedience/puppy training early in the relationship. If you have the skillfullness this is easy. If not, join a class or hire a private trainer. When I taught puppy training classes it was the humans teaching. And always always the unskillful humans were who I was teaching.

      When the human knows what they are doing, the dog can relax because he knows he can trust his calm assertive leader.
      City dogs get walked 3 times a day ( minimum.. more like 3-5). Many country people I know never walk their dogs. Letting your dog out the back door to roam free or leaving him in the yard alone all day while you are at work is no substitute for a walk.
      Almost all behavioral problems I have seen ( chewing, barking, shaking, getting into the trash, chewing his own paws to the point of bleeding, jumping up on people, attacking other dogs and other troublesome behaviors stem from lack of exercise and boredom. The dog is frantic. Without a calm assertive skillful human, this dog is lost and the trouble that can eventually ensue in the later stages such as with Ranger can end tragically with all the negative attention focused on the dog. When really the unskillful, negligent human is 100% to blame. If you don’t have the skillful ness or are unwilling to learn, if you don’t have the time to walk your dog on a leash and teach him basic social skills and the commands that will teach him to become a balanced happy dog, then please don’t get a dog. Having a dog is one of life’s greatest joys. But it is also a huge responsibility. Dogs need leadership. Be a good leader. Otherwise, get a cat.

Comments are closed.