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Pittsfield Animal Control Commission Deems Two Dogs 'Dangerous'
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
05:17PM / Friday, January 13, 2023
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The Pittsfield Animal Control Commission holds a hearing on two dangerous dogs on Tuesday.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Room 203 of City Hall was packed with more than 20 people on Tuesday for a Animal Control Commission public hearing on two dog attacks: one that killed a cat and one that killed a teacup Yorkshire terrier. 

Euthanization was kept off the table for both dogs but they were ordered to be muzzled and leashed.

There were supporters for both Violet, the 4-year-old teacup Yorkie who died, and her attacker, a 5-year-old mixed breed named Phoebe, who was deemed dangerous. 

The altercation between the two dogs occurred on Nov. 10, 2022, underneath the fence that separates their owners' homes on Plymouth Street. Violet had escaped from her home and Phoebe was in playing in her back yard. 

Some details varied between the testimonies from both parties but the commission said it was clear that there was a failure of Violet's harness that allowed her to run free and a failure of proper fencing to keep the two apart. 

Emotions were high as Violet's family advocated for her. 

"This is almost like losing a child," said Edmond Lyon, the son of Violet's owner Betty Lyon. "My mother is 91 and she cried for weeks and weeks. She's still crying over it." 

Lyon said Phoebe had attacked his mother's housekeeper twice and his neighbor recently had an incident with the dog. He added that he just wants safety.

A lost dog report was put out to animal control for Phoebe before the incident with Violet and there was a more recent report because she crossed a neighbor's yard. 

Lyon admitted that he went "a little bit crazy" after his mother's pup passed away but said he did not cross onto Phoebe's owner's property. 

One of Violet's family members referred to Phoebe as a "killer." 

Lyon's other son said he is not afraid of dogs but that "this one can be scary." 

Others described Phoebe as smart, loving, well-behaved, and uninterested in other dogs when off-leash. 

It was argued that she is not a "killer." 

One attendee compared euthanasia to the death penalty and said though it is a tragic situation, she would hate to see Phoebe's life lost. 

Owner April Gardner has had Phoebe since she was a baby and was not aware of any other incidents.  

She said she has a fence to keep her young child in the yard, not for her dog. 

"This man has threatened to kill me multiple times so I don't feel comfortable even being anywhere near them," Gardner said about one of Violet's family members.

"The police won't do anything. I've called the police multiple times. I don't have those records because I didn't think I'm defending myself. I'm defending my dog." 

Commissioners agreed that this was a tragic incident but saw Gardner as a competent dog owner. 

"Obviously this is a very sad incident that's occurred. We've heard a lot of reporting of a good, well-mannered dog within the home for the most part, right? I think April's doing everything that a good dog owner should do in the meantime since this incident has occurred," Commissioner Kimberly Conant said. 

"Having to be on a leash at all times, I love that you have the security cameras, too, not being unattended at any point, knowing that the fence is going to be fixed. Those are all really good signs." 

Phoebe has to be humanely tethered to a person, muzzled even in the back yard, and needs updated information reported to the city because her age and breed were inaccurate in the system. 

"It is an unfortunate accident," Chair Renee Dodds said to Gardner. "A dog did pass away so we just want to make sure in the future that everyone's safe and your dog is safe as well." 

A dog named Ava was also deemed dangerous after escaping through a hole in a fenced yard and killing a cat named Rue on Nov. 8, 2022, in the neighborhood of Brown Street. 

Rue's owner was not at the meeting but Ava's owner said she intends to fix the fence so that her 30-pound dog does not get out again. 

Ava is required to be humanely tethered and supervised on the property and must be muzzled when she is taken off the property. It was noted that she is a first offender. 

The commission also said fixing the fence is a top priority.

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