Three dogs living in a Main Street home were legally declared as having a “vicious disposition” by the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday night as part of a hearing on an attack by the dogs early last month.
These dogs, who were rescued by home owners Tim Thomas and Katie Slattery from abusive situations earlier in their lives, bit Town electrical inspector Dennis Kane on March 12, during a follow up to an inspection of a generator at the home three days earlier.
Once Kane arrived, a two-year-old Male Labrador mix Rocky and 18-month-old boxer/terrier mixes Sabre and Kuma jumped on the inspector, knocking him to the ground and biting him half a dozen times in the legs, including one bite that went through his inspection badge.
Kane was able to escape with the help of the home owners and drove to Nashoba Valley Medical Center in Ayer for treatment, followed by a trip to the Police Station to report the incident.
“At 52 (years old), was the scariest thing I’ve ever been through in my life, but I’m O.K,” Kane told the board during the hearing.
While Kane did not see the dogs during the first trip, Thomas and Slattery had warned contractors coming to the house during earlier trips to warn them first so they could keep the dogs away from any visitors, which Kane did not do according to reports on the incident from the Westford Police.
The report states that earlier contractors allegedly had also been bitten by the dogs while the dog owners stated the dogs had never bitten anyone else prior to the Kane incident.
Testimony was also given by a private tutor for the couple’s children that the dogs had never been a problem in the past from what she had seen.
Following the attack, Thomas and Slattery added several “Beware of Dog” signs to their invisible fence, six foot tall wooden double post fence and electric fence that were intended to keep the dogs pacified while in the yard.
While neighbor Caroline Palmer said that barking from the dogs had decreased since the incident, for an extended period the animals would bark constantly at anyone in neighboring yards or when she was in her own driveway.
“When in our yard, we’re constantly concerned about potential failure of the dog collars and electric fencing that keep the dogs contained,” said Palmer. “The installed fencing doesn’t seem adequate if these dogs are aggressive toward humans or other dogs.”
Both Thomas and Slattery were extremely apologetic and hired a trainer and kennel owner, both of whom said that the dogs could be rehabilitated and that they were obedient and not aggressive in their presence.
“These dogs’ disposition, they were very timid,” said Steve Bonacorsi, canine behaviorist and owner of the Ruffhouse here in Westford. “In my opinion, these are not aggressive dogs, it was more of a territorial (issue.)”
Westford animal control officer Meg Mizzoni and Westford safety officer Michael Croteau recommended the board that the dogs remain in muzzles at all times, a recommendation unanimously approved along with a stern warning for the owners
“The consequences of failure here are so serious. As bad as this was, it could have been so much worse,” said Selectman Kelly Ross. “There always has to be constant vigilance that this will never happen again.”