Three injured in dog attack

By Marianne Apfelbaum
Observer staff

Three Williston residents were sent to the hospital on Saturday – the victims of a dog attack on Porterwood Drive, according to Williston police.

Dan Hill, a resident of the mobile home park where all three victims lived, said he had been petting the dog, a Chow named Dakota. Hill’s daughter, Heather, 25, joined him and Dan Hill gave her a treat for the dog, he said. The dog “suddenly attacked the female” according to police reports, biting her in the chest.

Heather Hill then tripped and fell, and the dog bit her on the forearm, Dan Hill said, so he grabbed the dog’s hind leg, and the dog then bit him on the forearm.

The dog’s owner, Bonnie Racine, tried to end the attack, but the dog bit her as well, police say. Officer Keith Gonyeau subsequently spoke with Racine, who appeared to go into shock after the attack, he said.

All three victims were taken to Fletcher Allen Healthcare after being treated at the scene by Williston Rescue personnel. Heather Hill required 10 stitches on her arm, but she said doctors expect to remove them next week.

The attack occurred on the north side of a shed on Racine’s property, where the dog was tied to a car, Gonyeau said.

The dog had been staying with Racine’s daughter in Burlington while construction was being done on her property, Dan Hill said. The dog had recently been taken back to Williston and both Hills say the confusion of moving and all the construction personnel around that day probably stressed out the dog, and led to the attack.

“It was chaos there. All the odds were against this poor dog,” Dan Hill said.

The dog was “secured” by police, and is being quarantined at a kennel in Shelburne for 10 days per state law, according to Williston’s animal control officer, Sue Powers. The police report indicates the dog is current with its rabies vaccination. However, the dog did not have a Williston dog license, according to Williston Town Clerk Deb Beckett. The Observer’s attempts to reach Bonnie Racine for comment were unsuccessful.

The dog’s fate is now in limbo. Town Manager Rick McGuire said the town is playing an “informal role” in facilitating discussion between Racine and the other victims.

“In this situation, there is a question of whether the town has jurisdiction … but we certainly have an interest in what happens with the dog,” he said.

McGuire said the town has not received a written complaint about the dog, and acknowledged there would likely be a hearing if one were to be received.

The Hills said they will not press charges. “I think it was an isolated incident,” Heather Hill said. “Dakota is usually a very calm and well-liked dog.”

Dan Hill said he is a friend of the Racines, and has known the dog for six years. “I don’t want the dog to be put away. My daughter doesn’t want that either.”