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Dog Attack Left Woman and Dog Injured, 'Terrified'

After a dog attack last October, the Wenham animal control officer will decide the fate of a Boxer named Amy.

The fate of a Boxer named Amy rests with the Wenham animal control officer after an attack on another dog in her Lord’s Hill neighborhood last October that left one woman and her dog injured and “terrified.”

It happened on Saturday, Oct. 6 at about 4:30 p.m. when Tracy Conley was out walking her 20-pound Pug named Lola. Both Conley and Amy’s owner, Susan Lawson, offered their version of events during a hearing before Animal Control Officer Stephen Kavanagh last week. The hearing, which lasted about a half hour, happened in the Board of Selectmen’s meeting room at Wenham Town Hall.

Conley and Lola, who live on Hilltop Drive, were walking on nearby Enon Road when they met Amy, a “very muscular Boxer.” The two moved to the other side of the road.

Amy was showing signs of aggression, Conley said, which is why she crossed the street, according to a report on the Salem News. Conley said she heard about other reports of attacks involving Amy in the neighborhood. She’s been told about instances where Amy lunged at another dog while on an extending leash and a time where she chased someone riding a bicycle.

But on that October, day, Amy broke out of her collar and came toward Conley and Lola.

“As Amy lunged at us, I faced her to avoid being bitten,” Conley said, who at that time was “terrified.”

She also yelled “No, Amy” and tried to kick the Boxer, according to coverage of the hearing by the Salem News.

She picked up Lola and in the end, she was bit on her hand and Lola – who “wailed in pain,” was bit on a leg. Conley required seven stitches on her hand and back at Beverly Hospital and Lola received five stitches at Bugler Animal Hospital.

After the attack, Conley said she struggled to use her hand.

Conley submitted her medical bills and veterinarian bills to Kavanagh. She did not say the total cost of the treatment.

In response to a question from Kavanagh, Conley said she has not been reimbursed for the cost of the medical bills but has not given the total to Lawson.

“The cost of fearing for your own life and safety in your neighborhood in much greater than the cost of medical bills,” Conley said.

Conley now gets a “horrible feeling” when she encounters an unfamiliar dog while out walking Lola.

The incident illustrates that Amy is an untrained, aggressive and violent dog that should be put down, Conley said.

“It appears that this dog cannot be controlled," Conley said.

Lawson said she takes responsibility for the incident and later said she has taken steps to better control Amy, including purchasing a gentle lead – a special collar that wraps around the dog’s nose and makes it uncomfortable for the dog to pull on the collar and leash.

“I am confident I have total control over Amy now,” Lawson said.

In addition, Lawson said she has installed a cement reinforced metal fence at her home and taken training classes from Glen Goldman, a dog trainer in Gloucester.

When Amy encountered Lola last October, Lawson said she tried to turn and head the other way because she saw that Amy’s collar was lose. But Amy twisted and got out.

Amy is hard to get a hold of because she has short hair and no tail, Lawson said. In the end, Lawson ended up lying down on Amy as Conley and Lola got a car ride home from another neighbor.

Afterward, Lawson said she went to Conley’s home -  “I said I am so deeply sorry.”

She notified Kavanagh and her insurance company the next day. Amy was quarantined for 10 days.

“From that time on Amy has not been seen in the neighborhood,” Lawson said, noting she does not walk Amy in the area anymore.

Lawson said she bought Amy six years ago in consultation with her late husband Dexter, who had Alzheimer’s. The couple researched breeds and chose a Boxer. At that time, there were three dog “on the hill,’ referring to the Lord’s Hill neighborhood where Conley and Lawson live.

“I walked her all over the hill without any trouble,” Lawson said. But today, there are 27 dogs on the hill, Lawson said, and about half are “small dogs.” Amy does not like small dogs, Lawson said. With the increased number of dogs, Lawson said she always made sure to walk Amy on a leash even though Wenham does not have a leash law.

Lawson noted Amy plays well with large, male dogs, including a Golden Doodle named Archie that lives nearby. She’s also good with kids, including two autistic children she regularly sees, Lawson said.

Dexter died on Thanksgiving and “Amy is my constant companion,” Lawson said. Plus, she’s been told that Amy, who will be six in March, “probably doesn’t have much life left.”

Even with Lawson’s promises of training, a new fence and collar, Conley said;  “I am not confident that any amount of training will make me feel safe,” according to an account of the meeting by the Salem News.

Only Conley, Lawson and Kavanagh spoke during the hearing. About 10 people looked on from the audience but the hearing did not involve testimony from anyone else. Anyone else who wanted to provide information to Kavanagh was asked to submit it in writing. Those statements, and any other documents that are part of the investigation, are not public, said Town Administrator Mark Andrews. Kavanagh plans to continue his investigation after the hearing.

Kavanagh’s decision, which will be mailed to both Conley and Lawson, will then go to the Board of Selectmen to be ratified, Town Counsel Paul Weaver said after the meeting.

Lindsay Mazzetta January 16, 2013 at 10:11 PM
it's a shame that it's come to this. Being a dog walker and puppy trainer, I understand where both women are coming from. I got attacked in 2011 while walking a dog, it was a golden retriever that attacked us. luckily the dog i was walking didn't get bit, because he protected himself and me, but i ended up getting bit on the arm from the golden. Was a reaction from getting bit from the dog that i was walking, he was protecting himself. I reported the incident because this Golden has gone after other dogs before too, and no one had reported it. I was shocked. And the owners just didn't seem to care, they let the dog out loose and go where ever outside, so people always had to be on alert, which is not fair at all. I did not want the dog put to sleep, I just wanted the dog to either be on a leash, or in a fenced in yard. which the owners did do, they built a fence and now the dog is safe from harm. I think all animals should be given a second chance, depending how badly the situation was. Which in this case was pretty bad, and the owner should have had better equipment while walking the dog, like a no pull harness or easy walker head gear. dogs should not be walked on collars in the first place, it makes them want to pull, and hurts their necks, collars should only be worn for the ID tags. I walk a lot of dogs that have issues with other dogs, and I always make sure I steer clear of others, and have the right equipment. I don't think this dog should be put to sleep.
Lindsay Mazzetta January 16, 2013 at 10:31 PM
And I also hope this dog gets a second chance, and that the owners have a dog trainer come to their home and help train the dog. Who ever said "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" is so wrong. it's never too late to train a dog. they keep learning through out their whole lives, just like us. This dog I'm sure can be trained to do better on walks, and not want to attack or go after small dogs. it's going to take a lot of work, but if the owners truly want to keep their dog, they will have to work on it and keep up with it. Good luck to both dog owners. And to the lady with the pug "Lola" you can't live in fear forever. I know it's very scary after having this happen to you, Believe me I understand. But dogs don't attack for no reason, a dog will only bite as a last resort. And if you tense up and get scared while walking Lola, Lola will get tense and scared too. She can feel your bad energy and stress, and it's not good for either of you. I was shaken up for a week or so, but got over it. Because I had to, or else I would no longer be able to work with dogs. I'm not afraid of any breeds, it's the owners I'm more afraid of. Because dogs take after their owners, and learn from their owners. I honestly am not afraid of being bitten again if it was to ever happen again. The last thing a dog wants to do to a human is bite. But if you are fearful and scared and stressed near strange dogs, they will sense that. And that is bad.
Michelle Bailey January 17, 2013 at 12:19 PM
This dog has been give a second, third and forth chance already. Ms. Conley and Lola are not the first to have been attacked! I was also attacked by a dog while walking alone on the sidewalk in my neighborhood by a dog. The dog darted through the screen door, across his yard, and across the street to reach me. The dog had bitten before, but no one wanted to take it to the Board of Selectmen. I wish they had, because it might have spared me. Ms. Conley is very courageous for bringing this sad case to this point. As long this dog remains in the neighborhood, I'm sure she and all the neighbors are in fear of when it will happen again. She deserves our support.
Andrew Noble February 12, 2013 at 02:46 AM
With the 'judgment' now known (Amy cannot be walked in her neighborhood, better leashes, dog training, owner training, fence locks etc) the Selectmen need to ratify Mr Kavanagh's position. My concern with this seemingly transparent and objective process is that none of us were there at the time of the assault and we cannot be as sure, as Mr Kavanagh seems to be in his judgment, that Amy "did not bite Mrs Conley purposely during this encounter". I think most people would agree with the earlier sentiments in this thread, that for the most part dogs don't bite people on purpose. But when a dog has been reported to have bitten several people, isn't that a red flag? What if Mrs Conley hadn't been an ahtletic and able bodied woman but instead, a wheelchair bound and relatively less able person? What if Mrs Conley had been a young mother walking her two-year old in a stroller and it was the two-year old with flailing arms who attracted the attentions of Amy? At what point does a dog assaulting a person constitute a threat to the community at large? Perhaps the tipping point for more action to have been taken against the dog would have been if Mrs Conley had needed 45 stitches and five weeks of bed-rest. The seven stiches and need for plastic surgery have clearly not been enough to make a stronger recommendation to the Selectmen. This a sad case for all concerned, but I don't have faith we'll not be reading about Amy again in the future - think hard Selectmen.
Michelle Bailey February 12, 2013 at 11:23 AM
I'm surprised by this decision! In the 1990s I attended 2 vicious dog hearings by the Wenhan Board of Selectmen. The first after I was bitten on the leg by a neighborhood dog (bit an elderly man prior to me). I did not require stitches, but still have a nice scar. The second hearing for a dog on Howard St that residents were afraid of but had never been reported to attack. In both cases the dogs were removed from town. By destruction in my case and by returning to the prior owner in the second. If a dog bites once it's might be an accident. If a dog bites twice it's a habit. I don't want Amy walking in my neighborhood, along the Wenham Canal or any other trail in town where I, my kids, or my dog might be attacked. I guess Ms. Conley will need to sue Ms. Lawson to see if keeping her dog is worth a $10-30,000 settlement.
Dean Emary February 14, 2013 at 07:58 PM
How can a dog be ordered to be removed from town when it (in your exact words):"had never been reported to attack" ?? This seems completely unfair to the family of the dog. More importantly, it seems that the town of Wenham and the animal control officer have been overstepping their boundaries and therefore have violated the Massachusetts state law S-2192 which states that a dog cannot be punished for a) its breed or appearance; b) barking; c) growling; d) protecting or defending its home; e) protecting or defending its property; f) protecting or defending its family members; or g) protecting or defending another animal.
Dean Emary February 14, 2013 at 08:04 PM
Please disregard my previous comment. I re-read your statement and understand the hearing you attended was over 14 years ago. S.2192 is a more recent law signed by Governor Patrick. It's aim is to protect families from the kind of nonsense the family of the banished dog had to endure.

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