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Dog attacked in Putney

I write to describe shocking and painful events that led to the death of my beloved 9-year-old dog, in hopes that others may be spared.

On Dec. 29, as my 12-pound dog and I returned from our morning walk on the common in Putney village, a large dog tore across the street, snarling, and a woman ran after it, yelling.

The large dog immediately jumped upon my dog, and with huge jaws attacked her. The woman attempted to gain control, perhaps with a leash, but she was soon lying on the ground next to her dog.

I tried to lift my dog from beneath the attacking dog. Then a second dog who looked very much like the first came from the same direction and joined in biting my dog.

The owner and I both screamed, to no effect. Each time I attempted to lift my dog up, the attacking dogs jumped up and pulled her back down with their teeth.

Eventually, with the help of a man who stopped his car to help, I was able to get my little dog up into my arms, while the woman got her dogs back into her apartment. She came back and gave me her name, reporting that she owns one of the dogs and was caring for the other, but that it was not her dog who caused the injuries. I told her that I saw both dogs chewing on my dog at the same time, one on her rear leg and one on her front.

Despite seeking emergency care and despite a veterinary bill of nearly $1,000, our dog did not survive. My husband and I opted to end her suffering when we learned that the attackers’ teeth had penetrated her abdomen, and that exploratory surgery, with no guarantee of recovery, would cost $3,000 to $5,000.

Because I am anxious to prevent anyone or any animal from future harm, I called the sheriff’s office to report the incident and was told that no one could respond, so I should call the Vermont State Police.

The State Police told me that they could not help me, and they transferred me to the Putney Town Office.

I learned that the attacking dogs are not registered with the town, that Putney has no animal control officer, that the sheriff should cover animal matters, and that unless a human is bitten, in which case a crime has been committed, the matter is a civil one between the injured and injuring parties.

Although the sheriff did come to interview me the day following my dog’s death, he was not encouraging about any outcome. Although it turned out to be unnecessary, we were fortunate in being able to obtain the dogs’ veterinary records, since dogs who are bitten have to be quarantined if their attackers’ records are not available.

My children and young grandchildren were visiting us from out of town and were devastated at the sudden and violent loss of their favorite pet. We gathered the family that evening for a memorial service.

We’ve heard from many people since the attack, concerned for the safety of other animals, children, and adults in our town. Was his 3-year-old daughter at risk?, my son wondered. What about her dog who frequently walked on-leash downtown?, a friend asked.

I have learned quite a bit about trends in dog training and breeding in the last few days. I have also learned that our regulatory agencies have not adapted to the influx of dangerous animals into our midst.

My family and I sincerely hope that those in a position to do so will take action to ensure the safety of all who live in our towns and villages and who walk on our trails and roads.

Until our legislators and town officers pass sensible laws and ordinances and make sure of their enforcement, though, beware!

Sarah Cooper_Ellis

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Originally published in The Commons issue #441 (Wednesday, January 10, 2018). This story appeared on page D3.

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