WESTPORT — Within seconds, a seemingly friendly golden retriever attacked Steve Bird’s 11-year-old goldendoodle Molly, leading to a second dog joining in and multiple surgeries for Molly.
The April 12 attack near the Westport Woods conservation trail on Adamsville Road resulted in to two golden retrievers — Grizzly and Bella — being declared by the select board as dangerous on Monday. Selectmen could have declared one or both dogs as a nuisance only, but decided on a harsher designation: dangerous.
With the dangerous determination, selectmen ordered certain conditions, including humanely restraining the dogs on their home property through use of a fence or other measures. Selectmen also ordered that the dogs be muzzled and leashed when taken for walks off their property.
Previous complaints about the dogs
Animal control officer Donna Lambert had fielded past complaints about the dogs, which she shared at a June 10 hearing. The owners were cited in 2019 for failure to restrain these dogs, according to Lambert.
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Owners of the golden retrievers, James and Laura Mullin, of 6 Stony Brook Court, asked selectmen to delay their decision while their dogs undergo training, according to their lawyer Brian Corey. Select board members applauded the Mullins for taking the corrective action. However, they still voted on the matter on Monday, saying they had enough evidence for a determination.
Dogs to be muzzled and leashed
Corey said after the meeting that he is unsure if the Mullins would appeal the decision to the state.
According to testimony from a Jun 10 hearing, Molly was unleashed but standing alongside her owner Steve after they completed a walk along the trail. Grizzly, a retriever that belongs to James and Laura Mullin, was unleashed and about to get into a car when he saw Molly.
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Both Laura Mullin and Steve Bird reported at the June 10 hearing that Grizzly approached Molly. Steve Bird said at first the retriever seemed friendly but “without any provocation or warning this dog attacked Molly.”
After that, Bella jumped out of Laura Mullin’s car and joined in on the attack. Steve Bird said one dog attacked Molly’s neck area while the other attacked a hind leg.
Steve Bird and Laura Mullin both said they stepped in to break up the fight. Laura Mullin reported that she was bitten in the altercation but could not pinpoint which dog bit her.
Steve Bird told the board that he is 6’2 and 200 pounds, yet it took multiple kicks and punches to the retrievers to help separate the dogs.
“I felt totally helpless. I could not stop this attack,” Bird said.
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Bird said he rushed Molly to a Swansea veterinary hospital, where she later underwent a five-hour surgery,
Bird said that the neck laceration was described by the veterinarian as one of the worst of its kind.
One of the retrievers is a service dog
At the June 10 hearing, Corey questioned why Molly was not leashed. Bird said that the dog was under his control and is a service dog.
It was mentioned that Bella, the second dog to attack Molly, is also a service dog. Selectman Richard Brewer made a motion at the June 21 meeting that only Grizzly be declared a dangerous dog.
Select board members mentioned on Monday that based on the pack mentality of dogs, it is fitting for both to be declared dangerous.
Selectman Brian Valcourt said he has had dogs play with other dogs for a period of time and then join in on an attack against another aggressive dog that approaches the pack.
Valcourt said that his dogs joined in with a dog they had met a few hours earlier against another dog — illustrating the pack mentality.
“They think it is a threat to their family. That’s why they will join in,” Valcourt said.