Marion dog to be muzzled in public for one year

Mar 29, 2024

MARION — A three-year-old St. Bernard will have to wear a muzzle and be leashed at all times for at least the next year when off the Marion property where she lives.

On Thursday, March 28, the Marion Select Board held a public hearing where Fairhaven resident Miles Grant testified that his goldendoodle Harry was attacked by the dog, named Georgie, owned by Verena and Tom Hultsch at Silvershell Beach on December 21, 2023.

“As we started to walk toward the area where the dogs gather we were immediately approached by a St. Bernard,” said Grant. “I tried to greet the dog. It went right past me and immediately attacked my dog Harry.”

Grant said that Harry suffered a puncture wound during the incident. He also said that he had to force Georgie off of Harry by kicking the St. Bernard three to four times, but stopped once the two dogs were separated.

“I cannot say who was the initiator. It all happened so quickly,” said Verena Hultsch.

Verena said that she saw Grant kick Georgie six to eight times in the head and chest even after the two dogs had been separated.

The Select Board also received two letters from Marion residents alleging other instances where Georgie had attacked another dog.

Christine Hunt has been training dogs for the last 16 years. She has been training Georgie for the last five weeks.

“I don’t see her as a threat,” said Hunt. “She is a very fearful dog.”

Hunt said that Georgie has not had any problem walking on a leash in public over the last five weeks.

Marion Animal Control Officer Susan Connor recommended to the Select Board that Georgie should be muzzled when off of the property of her owners and be on a leash not exceeding 3 feet in length. She also recommended that the Hultsch’s backyard be made inescapable.

Gregg Corbo, Town Counsel for the town of Marion, led the public hearing, asking questions and calling people to speak.

Corbo said that as part of the Dangerous Dog Act in Massachusetts, the Select Board should deem Georgie as a “dangerous dog,” a “nuisance dog,” or neither of the two.

Corbo said that a nuisance dog “has threatened or attacked livestock or a domestic animal or a person but such threat or attack was not a grossly disproportionate reaction under all the circumstances.”

“A dangerous dog is one that without justification attacks a person or a domestic animal causing physical injury or death or behaves in a manner that a reasonable person would believe poses an imminent threat of physical injury or death to a person or another domestic animal,” said Corbo.

Corbo then asked the Select Board if they believe Georgie falls into either of the categories based on the testimonies they heard.

“This is a very difficult question because there is such a discrepancy in the description of what happened,” said Marion Select Board Chair Toby Burr. “We have not heard from any third party.”

Corbo said that the Select Board could choose to not make a finding at the moment and sentence the dog to terms “sort of like probation.”

After discussion, the Select Board agreed to have the dog muzzled and leashed when in public for the next 12 months. Georgie will also have to continue training once a week for at least the next six months. Connor will also go to the Hultsch’s residence to ensure that Georgie cannot escape the fenced in yard.

Georgie’s progress and behavior will be reviewed in six months and again after the twelve-month period.