Wednesday, 19 December 2018
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Sides drawn in dog attack hearing

DANVERS — A hearing to determine the fate of a pit bull accused of attacking a neighbor’s dog in July spotlighted not just the dangerous behavior of the dog. It also touched on whether the neighborhood is targeting the household based on the dog’s breed.

Town police held a hearing Thursday night on Neeka, a pit bull owned by Trung and Sabrina Nguyen at 32 Burley Farm Road. Neeka is accused of attacking a goldendoodle named Henry, belonging to LouAnn Strangie, who lives next door. Danvers police Officer Nicholas Strangie also lives at the home.

LouAnn Strangie filed a complaint with the town shortly after the attack on July 12. In her complaint, she said she heard “blood-curdling screams,” at which point she ran outside and found Neeka “latched onto the neck of my dog.”

Ultimately, Henry underwent surgery at Bulger Animal Hospital for open wounds to his neck and lip.

The hearing was well attended for the moderately sized training room at Danvers police headquarters, with a couple dozen residents including several from the neighborhood the attack took place in coming to back Strangie. From there, police Chief Patrick Ambrose will put a report together for the Board of Selectmen, from which they’ll determine Neeka’s fate.

In the hearing, Strangie said she let her dog Henry out, and that he might have escaped through a gate left ajar. Trung Nguyen later alleged Henry came onto his property, and that Strangie’s two dogs have both “run up the driveway, the side of the house, and tried to get into our gate” in the past.

In this case, Neeka escaped Nguyen’s property by slipping under a weak section of fence and got hold of Henry by Strangie’s front door, testimony heard at different points indicated.

“Neeka was latched onto Henry’s neck, and he was yelping,” Strangie said, adding that her dog was being “thrashed.” “I was screaming at the dog to stop, screaming at this dog I didn’t even know, who wouldn’t release or listen to me.”

Testimony provided by both sides, as well as several Danvers police officers, also pointed to two past incidents involving Neeka, one of which involved bites to a dog named Daisy, owned by Barbara Road residents Michele and Coley Rybicki, two years ago.

In that case, Michele Rybicki was walking with Daisy on Burley Farm Road when she saw a dog on the Nguyen’s property, prompting her to turn around and walk out of the neighborhood.

“I turned around and, within a second, I saw out of the corner of my eye this animal bolting toward me and my dog. There was this muscular pit bull,” Michele Rybicki said. “I pick my dog up, and just as I got her about here (at knee height), Neeka came up and grabbed my dog’s hind leg and pulled her down on the ground. So she was on her back, and Neeka kept going after my dog’s neck.”

Sabrina Nguyen, in her testimony on what took place that day, said she was warned by a Danvers police officer to “be careful. Your neighbors have it out for you.”

“I said, ‘I’m aware of that, because of the pit bull,'” Sabrina Nguyen recalled.

Such attacks have sparked local debate over the pit bull breed that has raged nationally for years. Sides have historically argued either that the species is violent or that it is taught to be violent by irresponsible owners.

Hearings like the one held Wednesday are infrequent, especially around Danvers. The last such complaint in town was heard in 2009 when selectmen ordered a dog out of town after it caused the death of another dog next door. State law now forbids a dog being ordered out of town, and cities and towns can’t regulate dogs “in a manner that is specific to breed.” Owners can appeal the board’s decision to district court.

Following up on the attack, the Nguyens have been training Neeka at K9 Top Performance in Reading. Nicole Tran, a trainer working with Neeka, said the dog “is in fact dog-aggressive, toward other dogs.” Neeka has been going there for the last several weeks, two to three times a week.

“Her behavior has gotten a lot better,” Tran said. 

Ambrose asked the trainer if she has worked with dogs destined for euthanasia and whether that work saved them.

“The success rate is usually pretty high, but it depends on what the owners of the dog do,” Tran said, alluding to training the Nguyens would need to undergo to better manage Neeka, should she be spared. 

Contact reporter Dustin Luca at 978-338-2523 or DLuca@salemnews.com. Follow him on Facebook at facebook.com/dustinluca or on Twitter @DustinLucaSN.

Source: http://www.salemnews.com/news/local_news/sides-drawn-in-dog-attack-hearing/article_a6edc5ac-102e-5926-a2ab-d0698e0c7fc8.html

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