Rochester dog deemed ‘dangerous’ after police encounter

Apr 4, 2023

ROCHESTER — Nomad, a 12-year-old American Bulldog owned by Rochester resident John Mccusker, has been deemed “dangerous” by the Rochester Select Board after three alleged encounters with police officers.

“On several occasions the dog has been used against police officers [while they were] trying to apprehend involved suspects,” wrote Rochester Police Chief Robert Small in a report submitted to the Select Board.

These alleged incidents took place on July 8, 2021, Oct. 18, 2021, and Feb. 11, 2023.

Patrol Officer Brendan Emberg said he was bitten by Nomad when entering Mccusker’s home for a wellness check on July 8, 2021.

“I made entry. As I went in with the fire department [and] EMS, the dog came down the stairs and immediately bit [my elbow],” testified Emberg during a public hearing on Monday, April 3. “I had to draw my taser, deploy my taser … I had to use several deployments … to repel the dog from attacking me again.”

Emberg later used pepper spray to further subdue the dog, he said.

“There was not a soul in my house,” said Mccusker. “[Emberg] walked into my house … into [the dog’s] own domain, the dog has every right to bite.”

During the hearing Mccusker presented a video of Nomad “walking by seven animals … inside Petco, walking freely — not a growl, not a bark.”

During the other two incidents on Oct. 18, 2021 and Feb. 11, 2023 Mccusker allegedly threatened to unleash his dog on officers while they were on his property.

According to Mccusker, when police have a warrant to enter his house, he puts Nomad away.

“If you don’t have a warrant I will not comply,” he said. “It’s not the dog’s fault.”

“Based on all these circumstances, [Mccusker] has used the dog as a weapon,” said Small in a closing statement. “It’s a felonious assault on police officers, it’s unacceptable and I feel we need to address it.”

For the Select Board, determining that Nomad should be designated a “dangerous” dog was not an easy decision.

“I find this difficult,” said Select Board Chair Woody Hartley. “As so many dog hearings are, it’s not really the dog” that is the root of the issue.

An initial motion by Select Board member Brad Morse to deem Nomad “dangerous” was not supported by the rest of the board.

“The dog hasn’t attacked anybody outside of the home,” said Select Board member Paul Ciaburri.

“I want to support our department,” said Hartley. “But I want to be fair to the animal.”

Ultimately, the Select Board voted that Nomad be designated a “dangerous” dog, pending a six-month review for good behavior. In the meantime, Nomad is to be “humanely restrained” to Mccusker’s property.

“I’m happy that they found the dog dangerous based on the use by the owner,” said Small. “Maybe he’ll learn something, six months isn’t a long time but I think it’ll give us some time to evaluate and … see how things have gone.”