After an hour and a half of hearing from residents, as well as one of the dog owners in question, the board voted to declare two dogs belonging to Christine Hunt as "vicious." They authorized Animal Control Officer Traci Mulligan to impound either of them should neighbors come to her with another valid complaint within the next six months.
As per town ordinances, Mulligan would be able to hold the dogs for no longer than five days and the owner could reclaim them during that time. Mulligan can impound them again should more complaints be received.
This aspect of the ordinance was pointed out by board member Billy Obenauer, who voted against the motion citing procedural issues, and said the board can only impound for longer when there is a dog bite involved. He also said it would be irresponsible to levy fines as though this were a third or fourth offense, as the town did not take action on prior instances.
It was not clear if the board did levy a fine, or what it decided to do about a third dog, owned by Kathy Wilkinson. Initially, it was part of board member Carl Korman's motion regarding Hunt's dogs, but board member Craig Bruder made a motion to amend Korman's and exclude the Wilkinson dog as it was not involved in the alleged cat attack that formed the basis for Hunt's dogs being found vicious.
Town Administrator Margy Becker said Wednesday that matter is being cleared up.
Mulligan told the board that her formal actions as animal control officer date back to June 2. She said two dogs owned by Hunt and a third by Wilkinson have been at the core of the complaints. She said the dogs run together and chase cats, and according to some reports have attacked them.
"He was getting chewed up and shook and thrown in the air," said Jeff Lacross, who described an incident in which some of the dogs had gone after a cat.
Mulligan said she has called Hunt and left a note for her, and with Wilkinson, but they did not return her communications.
Hunt apologized for her dogs and said she tries to keep them in the house, but is a single mother with two children who have friends over, and the dogs slip out when people go in and out of the house. She said she did not return Mulligan's initial call and apologized. She said she decided to wait for the hearing after she found the note.
Hunt said she also did not hear from a Vermont State Police trooper, who neighbors told the board had been called as well.
Mulligan said there are a number of things that can be done to keep the dogs indoors and said she would help give Hunt direction on the placement and use of gates.
"We have been dealing with this for over three years," said Noel Cardiff. He added that he did not want to see an agreement on things Hunt would be asked to do to keep the dogs in, but wanted them out of his yard. He said his cats have been chased, and he has found the dogs eating his cat's food in his garage. He took issue with the board excluding the third dog, saying it had gone after his cats.
He also said that if this sort of thing happened once or twice a year it would be different, but the problems have been far more frequent.