Burlington officials meet to discuss aggressive dog

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) The Burlington Police Commission is working to figure out the way forward after a dog fight this spring that ended with a Rottweiler killing a Maltese.

Ken Sweeney remembers the day Tigi was killed. "He basically just chomped onto the side of her and I was trying to pull his mouth open to try to get Tigi out," he said. "He just latched onto my hands with her."

Sweeney says an unleashed Rottweiler came from across the street and attacked his Maltese in May. The eleven pound pup died of her injuries.

Burlington Police Commission officials say this incident makes the 135-pound Rottweiler considered vicious under city ordinance. Now the group is charged with deciding what to do to keep the public safe.

"Whatever it takes to remove the dog from the neighborhood. If euthanization is the only way it can be done, then that's what I feel should be done. If there's other alternatives -- I'd be happy with that," said Fred Tardie, Tigi's owner.

Monday night the commission held a hearing to get testimony from both owners. This was a do-over for a meeting held back in August, since the Rottweiler's owners say the city never told them about it.

"My dog was not acting to attack for no reason, but was seriously feeling a threat of danger from the other animal," said Brandon Harding, the Rottweiler's owner. He and his wife, Melissa, did take responsibility for the incident, but argued that they still can control their dog, Otto.

"I am so sorry for the loss of your dog. I would never ever want that to happen to anyone," Melissa said.

Otto's owners had a behavior consultant, Laurie Lawless, speak to Otto's character. She said the dog shouldn't leave the house without a muzzle and a leash with two points of contact. "He's a really doofy, lovable dog.... He had no handling issues with me. I touched his face, his mouth, his paws," Lawless said.

Otto's owners says they will continue training him, and they proposed adding a new fence.

The commission says it will likely make a decision on how to move forward within a month. Some possibilities the group could enforce are getting the dog euthanized, having him removed from the home, or limiting his recreational activities.

No matter the outcome, Tigi's owners can't get her back. "She slept alongside of me every night. I really miss that," Tardie said.

The commission's attorney says Otto's owners can appeal the decision once its announced. Burlington Police tell us they only get a handful of dog attack reports a year.