ST. ALBANS — After a dog attack late last month, a full-bred Pit Bull has been sent out of St. Albans Town and municipal officials may be asked to consider changing an animal ordinance for a second time in several months.
While some in the town advocate a more extensive ban on Pit Bull mixed breeds, others insist a dog’s temperament is not due to breed, but how the dog is raised.
St. Albans Town Selectboard members mentioned the incident at the end of Monday night’s meeting. According to Animal Control officer David McWilliams, St. Albans resident Walter Fredette was walking his dog along Georgia Shore Road on Sept. 26 when two dogs, one full-bred Pit Bull and the other, a Pit Bull mix, came out into the road and attacked Fredette’s dog.
McWilliams described Fredette’s dog as receiving “bites to the body,” which were treated by a veterinarian. McWilliams added that he is looking into securing funding from the town to help pay for the vet bill, and the dog is currently doing well.
Fredette declined to comment for this story.
As for the owners of the attacking dogs, McWilliams said that Carrie Morrison and Caitlin Zeno, who recently moved to a Georgia Shore Road address, were issued a warning.
“That was the first time,” said McWilliams. If it happens again, the owners would be issued a civil citation, he added.
In addition to receiving a warning, Morrison and Zeno had to surrender the full-bred Pit Bull to Potter’s Angels Rescue in Randolph, since St. Albans Town’s animal ordinance, section 11, prohibits full bred Pit Bulls in the town. Because the other dog was determined by a veterinarian as a Pit Bull mix, that dog still resides with the owners.
McWilliams said he would work with Morrison and Zeno to license their dog within the next week. St. Albans Town requires all dogs be licensed by April 1 each year and to have the license tag displayed on a collar worn by every dog. The town’s animal ordinance also requires all dogs to be on a leash when not on the owner’s property, on another’s property with permission, in a vehicle, under verbal or non-verbal control, or hunting with the owner.
The town also sent a letter to the Franklin Humane Society to let officials there know that no Pit Bull breeds should be adopted by St. Albans Town residents. “They have an abundance of these Pit Bulls coming into their shelters,” said McWilliams.
According to Franklin County Human Society director Rusty Posner, the shelter has seen 24 Pit Bulls come through since Jan. 1. Eight of the dogs were returned to their owners after proof of rabies vaccinations was offered or licenses were acquired through town clerks’ offices, and all but three have since been adopted.
According to McWilliams, the issue is how the current animal ordinance is written. The town law was amended and signed by the town selectboard June 9, 2014 to include the enforcement of enclosing of large animals, but McWilliams said it needs another change.
“What we need to do is revise the section under ‘definitions,’” said McWilliams. He indicated that Pit Bull mixes should be included under the definition of “Pit Bull.”
McWilliams also suggested creating a budget in order to conduct a more aggressive dog census in the town to check on licenses and rabies shots.
There are those who disagree with McWilliams about the animal ordinance. Posner said on Thursday that restricting dog breeds in towns is outdated and not effective.
“I don’t agree with the ordinance at all,” Posner said. “It’s not who [the dogs] are, it’s how they were brought up.”
Posner added that Pit Bulls have been some of the best dogs she seen come through and that were adopted through the shelter. “I’ve had too many really incredible Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes here. I’ve had Golden Retrievers who are more vicious,” she said.
Though she doesn’t agree with it, Posner follows the ordinance and said she never adopts Pit Bulls or Pit Bull mixes out to St. Albans Town residents. Highgate and Montgomery are also have breed restrictions on Pit Bulls, and the three Franklin County towns are the only ones left in the state with such restrictions.
Posner said that she’s had potential adopters leave in tears after they’ve made a match and discovered they can’t own a Pit Bull breed in their town.
“Pit Bulls were originally bred to be au pairs to care for children,” said Posner. “There should not be that restriction against them. Everybody else in Vermont has done away with that.”
On Thursday, Posner brought out Brewster, an 18-month-old Pit Bull and lab mix. Brewster happily rolled in the leaves outside, enthusiastically watered some grass, and strained against his leash to try and lick Posner, employee Stephanie Lavoie, and this reporter.
On Monday night, the selectboard considered better enforcement of the current laws for all dogs, not just Pit Bulls.
“We need to put more teeth – no pun intended – maybe in our leash law,” said St. Albans Town Selectboard chair Bernie Boudreau. “I don’t know how this dog wasn’t killed or [Fredette] wasn’t injured.”
Boudreau added, “It could be any kind of dog.”
Selectman Brent Palmer agreed. “I think that all kinds of breeds are capable of doing that.”
“We have laws here,” said selectman Bruce Cheeseman, “and we need to enforce them.”