Select Board Approves ‘Dangerous Dog’ Determination for Nala
On March 8, 2023, Marblehead’s Select Board discussed and voted upon Town Administrator Thatcher Kezer III’s recommendation regarding the Marblehead dog Nala, a bulldog mix registered to Gina Rushton of 45 Pickwick Road. Nala has a history of aggressive incidents, leading to Kezer’s recommendation that she be designated “dangerous,” subject to the Board’s approval.
Kezer suggested that, under Massachusetts General Law 140 Section 157C, the following conditions be imposed: Nala is humanely restrained and confined securely both indoors and outdoors, wears a humane muzzle and is placed on a leash at most three-feet long with a minimum force capability of 300 pounds, Nala’s owner provide proof of insurance with minimum coverage of $100,000, and that information that may be used to identify Nala, such as photos or microchip information be provided to the Town. Kezer noted that “all of these requirements have already been met; they were met before the hearing.”
The Select Board had two options with regard to the designation; Nala could either be considered a nuisance dog or a dangerous dog, the latter of which Kezer recommended “given that with two incidents of [Nala] attacking a dog, it falls under the ‘dangerous dog’ definition.” Under Massachusetts law, the most severe penalty – euthanization – may be implemented, but Kezer “determined that it doesn’t warrant going to that level” for three key reasons: Nala has only shown a pattern of aggression towards other dogs rather than towards humans, Nala’s owner has taken complete responsibility for Nala’s actions and paid for the medical bills of those affected by Nala, and Nala’s owner voluntarily completed all of the requirements listed above prior to a formal order to do so.
Select Board member Erin Noonan put forth the notion that despite the pattern of aggression towards dogs, a human could still be injured by Nala, possibly alluding to the alleged attack on Bobby Barone during which Barone was bitten on the finger while defending his dog from Nala. She went on to share her relief that “the owner has been proactive in terms of complying quickly with all of the recommendations she was given,” as well as assuring those who live near Nala or were concerned about the danger she presented that if Nala is responsible for another aggressive incident, she would be subject to seizure and impoundment.
Alexa Singer, another member of the Select Board, questioned whether the owner had voluntarily engaged Nala in any behavioral training, suggesting that this may decrease further risk of attacks. Noonan went on to ask for clarification regarding the penalty for violation of the requirements, to which Kezer responded that he wasn’t completely sure but that any reports made of violations of the requirements would be thoroughly investigated by the police department.
Following the discussion, Select Board Chair Moses Grader put forth a motion to declare Nala a dangerous dog, and the motion was unanimously approved by all five members of the Board.