St. Albans City is set to euthanize a dog that officials say injured a woman’s hand and killed her prize rabbit, then killed nearly 30 chickens and ducks on a nearby property.
City councilors voted unanimously on Monday night to have officials put down Moose, a mixed-breed rescue, in a “humane” manner. Moose lived on Lake Street, police said, but had run unleashed multiple times in the past year on city roads.
Moose’s owner, who is identified in a St. Albans police report as Benjamin Haskell, did not attend the council’s vicious dog hearing Monday.
“This owner has failed this dog,” Ward 6 Alderperson Chad Spooner said.
VTDigger’s efforts to reach Haskell on Thursday were not successful.
Per St. Albans’ ordinances, councilors may order a pet to be “disposed of in a humane way” if it has attacked, threatened or injured a person or pet without provocation.
As of Thursday afternoon, Moose had not been put down, St. Albans Police Lt. Benjamin Couture said in an email, noting a date for the euthanization was not yet scheduled.
According to the police report and testimony at Monday’s hearing, on April 6 Moose entered the backyard of Trista Hemond on Walnut Street and pulled a red 12-pound rabbit, named Clifford, out of the rabbit’s cage through a gap in the cage door.
Moose began running around the yard holding Clifford by the neck, Hemond said, then eventually ran into the street, where he was caught with help from a neighbor.
Police said Hemond struggled with Moose to get Clifford out of the dog’s mouth, and in the process, one of his teeth grazed her hand, giving her a small puncture wound.
“The dog finally took a deep breath and my neighbor was able to pull (Clifford’s) lifeless body from the dog’s mouth,” Hemond said. “His neck had been broken.”
Police later asked Haskell if Moose was vaccinated for rabies, and the owner replied that he was, though he did not have paperwork on hand to provide it. Moose also wasn’t licensed with the city, according to the police report.
Hemond said Moose also injured two more of her rabbits on April 6, leaving those animals with wounds to the nose and feet.
The loss of Clifford will take a financial toll on her going forward, Hemond told councilors Monday, because Clifford was a parent to show rabbits that she sold to people across the country. She also said it will be difficult to find a similar rabbit to replace him.
“Our rabbits are not just pets. They are livestock,” Hemond said.
Police said they contacted Haskell after the incident and he told them Moose was able to escape the house because his daughter did not close the back door all the way.
Police said they issued Haskell multiple tickets for violating St. Albans’ pet ordinances on April 7. He had also received tickets for a dog “running at large” on April 22 and May 2, said Couture, the police lieutenant.
At Monday’s hearing, police said Moose caused further damage the afternoon of May 8 when the dog entered a yard on Lake Street and killed 26 chickens and three ducks.
Speaking to councilors, the birds’ owner estimated losses from the attack totaled more than $800. Police said surveillance footage from the property showed a dog that matched Moose’s appearance chasing chickens around the yard and then walking into the street holding a chicken in its mouth.
A woman walking by in the area, who police did not identify, then saw a dog with the same colors that had the name Moose on its collar, police said.
Following the second incident, Moose’s owner told police the dog escaped through a window in the house while he had stepped out for five minutes.
“My concern is this problem is going to be ongoing for the city,” Hemond said Monday. “And next time it could be someone’s small dog, or a child.”
Police said that, in addition to the incidents this year, they dealt with Moose running at large in the city three separate times in 2021. Couture said police issued Haskell warnings last year both for his dog running at large and for it being unlicensed.
At Monday’s meeting, St. Albans City Mayor Tim Smith said while the council could opt to put restrictions on Moose, such as having to wear a muzzle, he was concerned that it would not be enough to keep other residents and their animals safe.
Ward 3 Alderperson Marie Bessette agreed, saying the dog’s owner had been given multiple opportunities to address its behavior but did not seem to have done so.
Knowing that Moose could be running unleashed, she said, “I would be really hesitant to go out and walk my dogs on city streets.”
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