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Biting remarks follow repeated attacks by pit bulls

Staff writer

Heavy rains had ended for a while Saturday, and Michael Hurst of Peabody thought it was a good time to leave his house in the 800 block of N. Walnut St. for a few minutes.

“I should have known better,” he said afterward. “I had seen one of their dogs out.”

When he returned home 30 minutes later, Hurst found the chickens that he kept in his yard all dead, their pen and food bowl destroyed.

It wasn’t the first time he had lost livestock. Or the second. Or the third. Or even the fourth.

Five times in the past three years, he said, he’s lost domestic fowl to a pack of three dogs he describes as pit bull terriers owned by a neighbor.

The toll has been considerable. The first time, it was 42 quail, he said, followed by seven chickens, then eight, then four more. This time, not only were his birds killed. Their habitat was destroyed as well.

The dogs don’t eat the birds, he noted. They simply kill them.

“They get the taste of blood in their mouths, and there’s no stopping them,” he said.

He’d like to fight back and shoot dogs that attack livestock in his yard, but he notes it’s illegal to fire a weapon in the city.

It’s also illegal to allow dogs to run free, but it’s not illegal to keep pit bulls.

“It needs to be,” Hurstsaid. “One of these days, it’s going to be a kid they go after. We’ve seen it happen, right here in Peabody, that dogs go after humans.”

In July 2019, a Peabody man was so savagely mauled by his nephew’s dog, which would not release its grip, that the uncle’s face was unrecognizable.

This past February, a Peabody resident filed a $75,000 lawsuit after three dogs allegedly attacked him last summer on his way home from work.

Hurst wasn’t the only Peabody resident reporting problems with pit bulls Saturday.

According to monitored police transmissions, the first call came in at 12:45 p.m., when two pit bulls — a brown-and-white one and a white one — were seen running loose in the 600 block of N. Maple St., a bit more than three blocks from Hurst’s home.

Police officer Joshua Wilson located the dogs in less than 10 minutes but was unable to capture them. Ten minutes later, they eluded him.

An hour after that, another call came in — this one adding a third pit bull, described as black and white, nearby in the 600 block of Walnut St., headed south.

Wilson radioed that he had located the dogs’ owners and that the owners were out looking for them, as well.

The owners supposedly had retrieved one of them, but 10 minutes later came another call to dispatchers about three pit bulls being sighted in the 800 block of Maple St., a block from Hurst’s home.

Seven minutes after that, Wilson reported that he had been told by a jailer’s spouse that all the dogs were in the owners’ possession and that they were taking them home.

Twelve minutes later, however, Hurst called dispatchers to report that a black pit bull was across the street from his house and “had killed all his animals.”

Wilson followed up that day, visiting what presumably was the dog owners’ residence. But his weekend of receiving pit bull complaints wasn’t over.

At 8:22 p.m. the next day, a brindle-colored pit bull was reported running free in the 600 block of N. Popular St., about five blocks from where dogs had been reported the day before.

Wilson again headed out in search of the dog and found it. Aided by the city’s part-time animal control officer, he attempted to capture the dog, “but it just keeps running from us,” he told dispatchers.

When a second call came in about possible illegal dumping at the city’s burn pit, Wilson had to bail on the search, leaving it in the hands of the animal control officer.

But Hurst, who’s unhappy with virtually every Peabody official except Wilson, wasn’t upset.

“Josh is a friend, and he’s the one person who will do anything about any of this,” Hurst said.

After each attack, Hurst has complained to police and other city officials but to no avail.

“Can you see them getting off their fat asses and doing anything about this?” he said.

According to state law, it actually is legal for anyone at any time to kill adog found injuring or attempting to injure livestock.

However, Peabody police chief Bruce Burke said residents should not shoot dogs even in that situation.

“They could get in trouble for doing that because it’s inside the city limits,” he said.

In the attack on Hurst’s chickens, police will file a report with the city prosecutor seeking restitution for the chickens and other property, Burke said.

All the pit bulls running loose last weekend are owned by the same person, he said, and that person has been cited before.

“That case has already been through court,” Burke said. “This is at least a second time, and that will be taken into consideration.”

Peabody’s fines for dogs running loose escalate, so if the owner is convicted again, it will cost more.

The city also has a vicious dog ordinance but not a pitbull ordinance.

“It’s an issue for Peabody,” he said. “I think most people in our community are responsible, it’s just we have a lot of dog issues.”

Staff writer Phyllis Zorn contributed to this report.

Last modified June 9, 2022

 

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