By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — A woman who was taking her family’s dog for its afternoon walk on Primrose Street says another dog broke from its leash and bit her dog in the face before a passer-by stopped and separated the two animals.
Police said the “pit bull type dog” that broke from its leash was not licensed as required by city ordinances, was not properly restrained and was not up to date on its rabies vaccinations. Police said the dog is now under quarantine for 10-days and that its owner, who was issued a total of $200 in fines, told police she no longer wants the dog.
The incident was reported to police at 3:34 p.m. Thursday in front of the St. James School at 415 Primrose St. The building houses a special education program for students with disabilities and the Haverhill Alternative School.
John Street resident David Monson said his wife Priscilla was taking their rescue dog Doug, a 1-year old German short hair pointer mix, for his afternoon walk when the attack occurred. He said he and his wife take their dog on the same walk every evening without incident while she walks their dog every morning and afternoon.
“They had been sitting on the bench by the ball field closest to the school parking lot and the attack happened on the edge of Primrose Street,” he said. “A woman lost control of her pit bull and the dog came tearing across the baseball field, out the fence and attacked my dog.”
Monson said the attacking dog latched onto the side of the snout of his dog’s muzzle, resulting in injuries that required two trips to the veterinarian, and will also require a third visit at the end of a 10-day quarantine period.
“Some man who happened to be in the area came to my wife’s aid and pried the jaws of the pit bull off of my dog with his hands,” Monson said. “Once released someone who was driving by and saw the incident stopped and gave my wife and dog a ride home.”
Police Deputy chief Donald Thompson said an officer who responded to the scene arrived when the dogs were fighting had to lay down on top of the attacking dog and hold it to the ground so that Priscilla Monson could pull her dog away.
Thompson said the dog that broke free from its harness was a “pit bull type of dog” and that its owner was cited for failure to have the dog vaccinated against rabies, failure to have the dog licensed, and failure to leash it. Police issued the dog’s owner a total of $200 in citations.
“Our animal control officers have taken custody of the dog and it’s in a 10-day rabies quarantine,” Thompson said. “At this time it looks like the owner wants to surrender the dog. She doesn’t want the dog.”
Thompson said animal control officers will be following up on this case and a determination has not been made as to what will happen to the dog.
David Monson said he spoke with an animal control officer and was told the city no longer has a pit bull ordinance, and hasn’t had one for almost five years.
“The other dog was unlicensed, unregistered and had not ever had any shots,” Monson said.
Monson said his dog’s medical bills will far exceed the $200 in fines issued to the owner of the dog that attacked his.
“If someone had reported this dog before it had attacked she (the dog owner) would have been liable for the same citations for her violations,” he said. “There is no punishment at all for the fact that her dog did attack. If I want to recover my damages I have to pay to sue.”
“The chances of recovering monetary damages from someone who hasn’t paid the minor fees to legally own a dog are next to nothing,” Monson said. “In effect, our system has no penalty for someone who owns an illegal pit bull that attacks.”
In 2008, city leaders reviewed and toughened up local animal control laws after a series of incidents which people were attacked and injured by dogs. A number of attacks that occurred early in 2008 in Haverhill involved several breeds, including pit bulls and a German shepherd. At the recommendation of the MSPCA and other animal advocates, the city created an ordinance that was broad and included all breeds of dogs, not just pit bulls, as all dogs have a propensity to bite.