By AVALON ASHLEY
Colchester resident Diane McGill claimed she suffered “emotional trauma” after a dog attacked her miniature horse while it was grazing behind Airport Park.
“I don’t understand; she’s a good dog,” said resident Austin Robinson, the owner of Remy who allegedly bit Prancer, McGill’s mini horse. Robinson offered sincere apologies to Prancer and McGill during a hearing in front of the selectboard on Oct. 22, emphasizing his bewilderment at the alleged attack.
“I think it was more out of fear than anything else,” he told the board. “I think when [Remy] ran up she really wanted to just play. She’d never seen a horse before.”
According to McGill, Prancer was grazing in the woods behind Airport Park when a dog with no leash bolted through the trees.
“I started kicking and yelling,” she told the board, but the dog “launched and went for Prancer’s neck.”
McGill said that she grabbed the dog off, holding it to the ground with her body and told Prancer to run home. “My horse is smart, he knows his way home,” she said. The dog then apparently slipped out of its collar and took off again. When McGill returned to the stables to find her horse, she found two bites on Prancer’s neck and washed the horse with peroxide and water before calling the vet.
McGill found Robinson via the information on Remy’s collar, which slipped off during the altercation. At the hearing, Robinson confirmed that he paid the veterinary bill for Prancer’s care.
“The reason I’m having this hearing is because it was traumatizing for me—what I saw this dog do to my horse,” said McGill. “I love animals. I don’t want anything bad to happen to this dog, but I do feel what this dog did—I don’t want it to happen to a child, dog, or another person.”
She suggested to the board that Remy be required to wear a body halter, a muzzle, and a better leash when in public. “I would never have this dog at a park or around children,” she said.
Horses are not strictly allowed at Airport Park, nor are dogs allowed to roam off-leash.
Selectboard member Herb Downing noted in the Colchester Code of Ordinances, that “a dog is not mandated to be on a leash in public if an owner can assert that a dog is under their control.” This leaves the restrictions on leashes somewhat in a grey area, however, Colchester park’s rules are clear that all dogs must be on a leash.
Following the event, McGill informed both the Colchester Police Department and Animal Control. Robinson received a citation for, “a dog running at large.”
Downing clarified that anytime a dog is not under an owner’s control while in public, a dog is considered a nuisance. “Like a traffic ticket,” he said.
During his testimony, Robinson called Remy, “100 percent friendly and loving.” Robinson said he’s owned Remy for six years and she is “very obedient and trained very well.”
“Honestly, I’m still shocked to hear that she attacked the horse,” said Robinson. “It’s completely out of character.”
Robinson brought photos of Remy playing with his five-year-old daughter as evidence of the dog’s good nature towards kids. “They’re best friends,” he said. “My daughter gets away with murder with my dog; she’ll pinch her ears, her tail. [Remy’s] so loving, she would never lift a finger to my daughter.”
According to Robinson, his daughter often rides around on Remy’s back when they play.
“I definitely felt bad for the horse, it definitely hurt my heart,” he said. But Robinson also wondered if McGill’s first reaction—to kick and yell at Remy—instigated his dog’s defenses, leading to the attack.
“I think when the owner tried to kick her away, that’s what sprung the bite from my dog,” he said.
In terms of McGill’s suggestion to the board about using a halter collar, muzzle, and tighter leash, Robinson seemed open.
“I’m not really comfortable with a muzzle; she’s not an aggressive dog,” said Robinson, citing worries about Remy’s ability to breathe. “Definitely willing to look into a halter type of leash. Anything that could make it a safer environment,” he said.
After hearing testimony from McGill and Robinson, the board closed the hearing and proceeded into a deliberative session.
“Since that incident, I’ve had her on a much tighter leash,” Robinson said—pun not intended.