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.