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dog complaints heard by Hampden Board of Selectmen

HAMPDEN – Disagreements over dogs were a topic of discussion at two hearings before the Hampden Board of Selectmen on July 25.

Animal Control Officer Shelley Sears told the board that an 8-month-old mastiff owned by Lindsay Bibeau of Raymond Drive got loose on June 28 and entered neighbor Erik Vanderleeden’s property. According to Vanderleeden, the dog came into his yard from him, and after telling it to go home several times, she “charged” at him. Vanderleeden used a chair to put space between himself and the dog and eventually, the mastiff left.

Bibeau admitted that the “dog had gotten out” through a part of her chain-link fence that had been damaged by a fallen tree. However, she said any aggressiveness was “news to me.” She said the fence has been temporarily repaired since then.

Another neighbor, Lorena Severino, said the mastiff had escaped Bibeau’s property and come into her yard several times, although she did not say when this occurred. She said that she has children and feared her for their safety. At one point, Severino followed the dog back to Bibeau’s house and was told the dog ran out the front door when it was left open. Sears reported when asked that Bibeau’s three other dogs have gotten loose at various times in the past, but there had been no reports of aggressive behavior.

“We’re fortunate that there has not been a more recent incident,” Board of Selectmen Chair John Flynn said, adding that it did not appear the dog represented a danger as of the meeting. He told Bibeau that if the dog continues to escape or there is an attack, “we’re looking at a more nuclear option.”

Board of Selectmen member Donald Davenport said, “Our main concern is the safety of children and neighbors,” and said it was the owner’s responsibility to maintain control over the dog.

Fellow Board of Selectmen member Craig Rivest instructed Bibeau to ensure visitors and family members know that the dogs are in the home and cannot leave the door open.

“It’s not a free pass,” Flynn said to Bibeau. “Your dog is on the list, if you will.”
Sears was instructed to conduct a site visit to confirm that the temporary fence repair was adequate and Bibeau is expected to have a permanent repair to the fence by a follow-up appointment with the board on Aug. 22.

Twining Dog

Another mastiff, this one belonging to Jeffrey Twining of Brookside Drive, was the subject of a complaint by a neighbor, Dena Grochmal. Sears explained that she had been called to the Grochmal’s residence because Twining’s dog Jemma was “threatening” her and acting aggressively through the fence. Sears reported that she saw the dog acting aggressively by barking and jumping against the fence.

According to Sears, the Grochmal yelled at the dog, and it ran away.

Sears then spoke with Twining about reinforcing the fence, which she described as “flimsy” and consisting of two metal stakes with wire running between them. The Twining told the board that Jemma had never escaped the yard.

The Grochmal said she is “scared to death” of Jemma and can’t be outside without the dog “snarling” and running back and forth along the length of the fence. She said that she brings a “butcher knife” outside of her with her because she is fearful of the dog. A friend and neighbor corroborated Grochmal’s statement from her that Jemma was aggressive toward her while he visited.

Twining told the board that he had had Jemma for 16 months, but the difficulty had just recently begun on June 9. “Since then, he said, “It’s been hell.” He said that he tries to time bringing the dog outside when the Grochmal is not outside. He also said that the neighbor “provokes” Jemma by yelling, slamming doors, banging her pool skimmer and otherwise making noise.

Twining’s son, Scott Twining, and his girlfriend Nicole testified to the board that there is security footage, including audio, of the neighbor taunting Jemma, walking onto Twining’s property and antagonizing the dog.

Kimberly Garvey, a different neighbor, spoke on behalf of Twining and Jemma. She said the dog is “sweet,” and not aggressive, but that the complainant neighbor “tries to get the dog going,” and “has a problem with neighbors’ dogs.” Likewise, neighbor Joseph Lafleur told the board that Jemma does n’t react to his dogs de ella barking at her, and that he trusts his young children de ella to run up to and pet the dog.

Grochmal responded that Garvey was lying, and Twining was friends with the other neighbors on the street. She had also claimed that Jemma had bit multiple people in the neighborhood, but they wouldn’t come forward because they were “afraid of retaliation.”

Flynn told the Grochmal, “You’re saying the dog is threatening you. The dog has not come out of their yard.” He told her that the situation was “not actionable.”
Twining offered to reinforce the fence with four-by-four lumber. Sears said that would be acceptable.

Flynn thanked the neighbors for coming out and speaking on behalf of both parties.

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