July 30, 2014

Complaint alleges German Shepard attacked state prosecutor

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Selectboard will hold hearing to decide dog’s fate

By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

A German Shepard that a state trooper owns as a personal pet attacked a state prosecutor last week on the Williston street where both law enforcement officials live.

The Selectboard will hold a hearing Monday on the case. The board could order the dog put to sleep or impose a less severe sanction to prevent future attacks.

Brooks McArthur, a Seth Circle resident, filed a formal “vicious domestic pet” complaint with the town Monday against the German Shepard and its owner. McArthur, a deputy state’s attorney in Washington County, said the dog bit him multiple times in an unprovoked attack Friday.

The dog belongs to Michelle Leblanc, who also resides on Seth Circle. She is a Vermont State Police trooper.

State Police Lt. Bill O’Leary, who emphasized the incident did not occur while Leblanc was on duty, said the dog was not a police canine, though Leblanc “was hoping the dog would be considered” to become a police canine one day.

The alleged incident occurred at approximately 6:30 p.m., according to McArthur’s complaint. McArthur said the dog was not on a leash when it attacked him without provocation in his driveway. “The German Shepard was running toward my wife and I at full speed in an effort to attack,” the complaint states.

McArthur was knocked to the ground by the dog, according to Williston Police Chief Ozzie Glidden. McArthur’s complaint indicated he was bit multiple times on his back and once on his elbow. McArthur said he required medical treatment for the bites.

The attack was subsequently reported to the Williston Police Department. Glidden said Tuesday that the case remains under investigation. It was unclear whether there were witnesses to the alleged attack besides McArthur’s wife.

Leblanc could not be immediately reached for comment. However, O’Leary said Leblanc would be at next week’s Selectboard meeting.

“She’s very upset by this and she plans to attend the scheduled hearing,” O’Leary said.

McArthur’s complaint also detailed a previous alleged attack with the German Shepard that occurred in the summer of 2004. McArthur said the dog attacked McArthur’s wife, Amy, and their pug, which was only a few months old at the time, “without provocation and while off the premises of its owner.”

McArthur said his wife did not require medical attention, but the pug was bitten and sustained several puncture wounds to its abdomen.

Two Selectboard members, Terry Macaig and Ted Kenney, will complete their own investigation of the most recent incident. They are expected to work with Officer Jessie Sawyer, the investigating officer on the case, and to interview those involved. They will present their findings to the board at Monday’s meeting.

The Selectboard will deliberate following the hearing, perhaps in a closed session. The board will weigh whether it needs to take action to prevent the dog from a future attack. Potential penalties include muzzling, confining or chaining the dog, or putting the dog to sleep. The Selectboard could also impose a $50 fine.

Leblanc would have 21 days to appeal the Selectboard’s decision.

Selectboard member Andy Mikell said he wanted to speak directly to those involved, including any witnesses, at the hearing.

“If I’m going to have to decide whether to let this dog go loose in the community or to kill it, then, with all due respect to (Macaig and Kenney), I’d like to hear what (the people involved) have to say myself,” Mikell said.

Town Manager Rick McGuire said the Selectboard last received a formal dog bite complaint a few years ago, but no formal hearing was conducted because of successful mediation between the parties.

“This one did not lend itself to that,” McGuire said.

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