October 20, 2014

Selectboard reduces fine in dog bite case

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By Tom Gresham
Observer staff

The Selectboard has lowered the fine it imposed on a Williston woman for an alleged dog bite incident in April.

Michelle LeBlanc will have to pay $50 instead of the $500 originally levied. Her German Shepherd, Paco, was accused of biting her neighbor, Brooks McArthur, on April 15.

The Selectboard agreed with the argument of LeBlanc’s attorney, John P. Campbell, that the state statute governing the board’s authority in a dog bite case was “ambiguous and vague.” Campbell, a state legislator who has written some animal welfare legislation, asserted that the Selectboard only had the authority to levy a maximum fine of $50.

The Selectboard had made its original decision to fine LeBlanc on April 29. LeBlanc then appealed the decision. The Selectboard heard her appeal at a June 21 meeting.

The board considered the appeal in closed session on June 21 and a draft decision was subsequently circulated by e-mail to board members. The board met June 27 and approved the decision.

LeBlanc, a Vermont State Police trooper, also does not have to ensure that Paco undergoes obedience training — part of the board’s original set of punishments. LeBlanc no longer owns Paco. She placed the dog with someone who lives in a rural area of New York.

LeBlanc purchased the dog with the intention of having it be a police dog, Campbell said. However, Paco was not accepted into the Vermont State Police K-9 program “as a result of this incident and the surrounding publicity,” according to a letter from Campbell to the Selectboard. LeBlanc was accepted into the K-9 program.

The board also decided it will not force LeBlanc to compensate McArthur for expenses connected to the incident. Campbell said McArthur has not responded to repeated offers from LeBlanc to pay his clothing and medical expenses. Campbell told the Selectboard at a June meeting that he believes McArthur, a deputy state’s attorney in Washington County, plans to file a lawsuit against LeBlanc.

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