CHESTER, Vt. – The Chester Selectboard meeting Aug. 18 largely dealt with a vicious dog hearing that resulted in an order to immediately impound the dog in question, a German shepherd named “Dutchess,” until several conditions were met by the pet’s owner.
After the hearing, which involved numerous complaints about the dog and his owner’s lack of response, the board emerged from their executive session with the decision to impound the dog immediately and will be held until the owner registers the dog; provides proof of installation of a chain and muzzle; and the dog receives an assessment by a licensed professional indicating that the dog is safe to return to a residential area.
After the board’s decision, the dog was picked up without incident according to the Chester Police Department’s Facebook page.
Several complaints were leveled against the German shepherd for biting incidents happening near the dog’s residence on Davidson Hill Road. Chester resident Barbara Bye filed an official complaint describing a bite she received when the German shepherd along with another dog, crossed the road and charged her, eventually biting her on the thigh as she was walking with her daughter who was pushing a stroller with her granddaughter. A second anonymous complaint was filed for another bite from the same dog on the following day from a man walking along the same stretch of road.
Additional complaints were made to the owner of the property who rents to the dog’s owner, who then contacted Chester Police. Police followed up with that incident and learned of additional incidents where the shepherd attacked other dogs in the area as well as a third-person report of another bite to a woman holding a baby.
The property owner said that the dog’s owner’s one-year lease was up at the end of August. He said that when he first rented the property, the owner only had the smaller dog and he only found out about the shepherd when he started hearing complaints around April.
Town Manager Julie Hance said she had just received an additional complaint just prior to the meeting from a local couple who complained the dog had run into their yard, chasing them until they ran into their back door. The dog also threatened the husband at the end of his driveway. They also said there had been an additional incident where the dog had charged their friends.
Carl Herd attended the meeting via Zoom and told of an incident involving the dog barking up against his grandson’s fence, causing his grandson to flee inside. He said he had also fended the dog off with a ski pole as the dog threatened to bite him. He said he had called the Chester Police and talked with them about the incident.
Chester Health Officer Amanda Silva detailed her conversations with the complainants and her interactions with the dog’s owner, who according to her, denied his dog bit anyone and added that he was being harassed. He also said the dog was a service dog who was always by his side. Silva also confirmed that the dog’s owner had received notice of the hearing. She also confirmed the dog was not registered.
Board Chair Arne Jonynas expressed concern that the dog’s owner hadn’t responded to the complaints or to the notice for the hearing.
“To dismiss it is troubling,” he said. He later said the owner’s actions would weigh heavily on their decision.
Resident Greg Nater asked if the owner did not comply and the dog stayed in Chester and attacked someone else, if the town would be liable. Hance said that according to the town’s attorney, if the owner doesn’t follow through on the imposed conditions, liability would revert back to the owner.
In other news, the Hazard Mitigation Plan, which needs to be updated every five years, was presented for review. According to Cindy Ingersoll from the Ascutney Regional Planning Commission who helped with the plan update, the draft has technically been approved, incorporating all changes from the state. FEMA automatically provides a letter of approval from the town once the state provides approval.
A comment period is open for the board or residents until the end of the month. Chester residents can contact the Town Office to view the plan. Once any additional changes are made, the board should be able to approve the final draft in October.
The next Chester Selectboard meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. at the Chester Town Offices.