Wareham Selectmen postpone 'dangerous dog' hearing after owner not properly notified

By Matthew Bernat | Jul 10, 2018
Photo by: Matthew Bernat Animal Control Officer Cheryl Gorveatt-Dill is sworn in before giving testimony during a dog hearing at Tuesday's Selectmen meeting.

A mailing error postponed a decision by Selectmen that could deem an Australian shepherd named Daisy as a dangerous dog allowing restrictions on the animal. It is accused of creating a “nonstop chaotic situation” on Great Neck and Lydia’s Island Roads, according to neighbors.

On Tuesday, board members opened a hearing addressing several complaints from neighbors who said the dog is violent, aggressive and injured another dog in May by biting it on the neck.

“I’ve been told the dog is repeatedly loose and acting aggressive,” said Animal Control Officer Cheryl Gorveatt-Dill.

She said she’s received many complaints regarding Daisy, including on May 29, May 22 and shortly before Tuesday’s hearing. Five residents testified before Selectmen saying the dog broke out of its owner’s home by running through a screen door on multiple occasions. Also, its aggressive behavior is frightening, they said, and expressed concerns it may eventually harm a child in the neighborhood.

“The issue is the owner can’t handle the dog,” said Gorveatt-Dill, adding Daisy is a medium-sized dog weighing approximately 50 pounds.

Daisy’s owner, Sandra Crossman, was not present to defend herself against the accusations. Gorveatt-Dill said Crossman was notified verbally and planned to attend the hearing.

Under Massachusetts state law, Selectmen may deem a dog as “dangerous.” Once that’s done, restrictions, such as forcing an owner to install fencing or requiring the animal be muzzled outside its owner’s property, may be put in place.

Before they planned to vote, Selectmen learned Crossman had not been notified via certified mail of the hearing. Because of that, the hearing was postponed to a date to be determined.

“The owner has a right to cross examine what you said,” Town Counsel Richard Bowen informed the neighbors. In the meantime, he recommended Gorveatt-Dill order Crossman to tether the dog in the interest of public safety until the hearing could be completed. Gorveatt-Dill said she would notify Crossman of that decision Tuesday night.

Selectmen also ordered two dogs owned by a Parkwood Beach resident be named “at-risk.” The designation lasts for two years and will lapse after that time if no other incidents are reported.

During that hearing, residents said the animals – an airedale terrier and a golden doodle – were involved in fights with other neighborhood dogs. As a result, the owner was ordered to install a 4-foot fence high around his property, muzzle the dogs when off the property and use a leash no longer than 4-feet when walking the animals.

Selectman Peter Teitelbaum examines a notice that was never sent to Sandra Crossman notifying her of Tuesday's hearing, prompting board members to postpone a decision on a potentially dangerous dog. (Photo by: Matthew Bernat)
Comments (19)
Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Jul 11, 2018 00:06

Ready for a rant?


First and foremost, I like dogs and believe that they are great companions and truly man’s best friend.  I would never be mean to a dog.


I also realize that many dog people (yes, we all know “dog people”) have distorted views and actually put dogs ahead of humans.  I cannot comprehend the level of pussyfooting that has gone on in this town regarding dogs over the past year. The two that just attacked the woman in West Wareham should have been destroyed or at least taken away.  All this crap in this article about fences, muzzles, and leashes.  Dog people will never admit that their dog is bad.  They won’t follow these restrictions. They will continue to let their dangerous dogs be menaces to these neighborhoods.  That’s what happened last summer when a terrier like dog attacked and bit a little girl unprovoked down Hamilton.  While on 10 day quarantine it got loose again!  The owner can’t handle it and was ordered to walk it muzzled.  I have never seen it with a muzzle.  That lazy selfish dog person has no remorse that her dangerous dog attacked and bit a 5 year old child.  Troubling that people can be like that.  Even more troubling that the Town of Wareham’s lenient dog protocol gives the dog and its owner so many rights and chances.


I have learned by the handling of all these situations that nothing gets resolved.  Bad dogs and bad dog owners are protected.  Bad dogs remain a risk in this town. That’s not fair to the neighbors.  That is not fair to those that were attacked, bit, scared, and scarred.


As as a result of what I have learned, I will never call the police or animal control again if there is another dog attack in my neighborhood.  Justice will not be served.  I will handle it myself.





Posted by: OnsetTogether | Jul 11, 2018 05:51

I thought that rant was going to be about the ineptitude of a public employee for screwing up a simple mailing and causing a second hearing for the public to attend to testify. That's the reason "nothing was done." I was wrong.

Posted by: WWareham resident | Jul 11, 2018 07:21

WBTS, completely warranted rant and spot on.

As a responsible dog owner, I take great offense to the owners that don't see the dog for what it actually is, a dog/animal not a human. Don't get me wrong I love my rescue dog but if he were to ever get out and terrorize a neighborhood and actually bite a child, that would be the end of it for me. Seems these owners are just ducking their responsibility and that is sad.


I'm sorry but don't tell me this owner wasn't aware of the hearing because they didn't get a certified letter. Again, ducking responsibility.IMHO.



Posted by: gottahaveit | Jul 11, 2018 08:24

Handle it yourself WBTS?  Could that possibly mean you will take it upon yourself to kill a dog or a “lazy selfish dog owner.”   I hope not because that’s basically what your insinuating.  Sick sick sick

Posted by: Steve Holmes | Jul 11, 2018 10:18

I did not agree with the Warrant passage turning this specialty over to the Selectmen. That's why we have an Animal Control Officer and her Law Enforcement colleagues called a Police Department. I could be wrong but I think only Mr. Pete has a background with dogs, other than just being an owner. I think in other Cities and Towns these issues are dealt with within the Law Enforcement Department. Maybe it would be wise to put another Article at Town Meeting and change this back to the Police Department. Again I could be wrong but having these types of decisions made from a political body, is probably not the best place to handle them.

Posted by: Peaches0409 | Jul 11, 2018 10:35

I am very familiar with the Airedale Terrier breed. I had one for 16 years. She was the most loving and docile dog I have ever owned. She came from a reputable breeder in Westminster. Makes me wonder what the owner has done to it to make it vicious.

Posted by: OnsetTogether | Jul 11, 2018 10:56

Steve we removed ACO from the WPD and placed it with DNR. Alphabet soup, but this is a good reason why that should not have happened. Most ACOs are associated with the police department in MA.

Posted by: OnsetTogether | Jul 11, 2018 10:57

Also, our ACO only is paid for very few hours a week. She works on her off time, and that is wrong. If you want a full time ACO, pay for it.

Posted by: WWareham resident | Jul 11, 2018 11:45

Onsettogether I was wondering why our old ACO, Karl, wasn't around anymore and what you stated is most likely why.

ACO should definitely be under law enforcement not the political panel..

Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Jul 11, 2018 12:31

Gottahavit- don't be silly!  Nobody's killing anybody or anything...geeze!


Using your words "sick sick sick" is how I describe the West Wareham woman that left a bleeding woman after her two dangerous dogs attacked her.  That is beyond my comprehension.  I can search back and put her name up here again but I'll play nice.  I'll tell ya though, if that attacked woman was my wife, mother, daughter, etc. I wouldn't give up without a fight.  I feel that the authorities have been WAY WAY TOO lenient with that whole case.  All the dog people come out of the woodwork and rally for the friggin dogs!  Are you kidding me?  The ACO appears to have her hands tied because the dog people will make a big stink if she does anything drastic.  The dogs and the owners have gotten away scot-free while the attacked woman is scarred for life!  I feel that an "eye-for-an-eye" has a little merit in cases like that.  Let my insinuation remain a mystery but fair is fair!  Let's just say that if bit,  I'd bite back...(figuratively in some shape or form).








Posted by: OnsetTogether | Jul 11, 2018 15:34

We can only hope the victim brought a hefty negligence suit for the attack. Hitting some people in the pocket is the only thing they understand. Those dogs should be permanently confined to their own property, imho. But we can't get criminal humans off our streets with the Wareham District Court, so it should surprise no one.

Posted by: Andrea Smith | Jul 11, 2018 20:10

4 ft. fence is not high enough. Both breeds, if determined to do so,  are capable of jumping a 4ft. fence

Posted by: Garry B. | Jul 12, 2018 01:25

I can assure you that these issues are not taken lightly and we handle dog attacks very seriously.  The individual incidents were investigated fairly and the resolution had a positive outcome.  They were completed within the extent of the law and ALL HEARINGS held by the town can be appealed regardless of who the hearing body is to the court.

With regards to the incident of the two dogs in West Wareham this is our first incident with the two dogs.  The actions of the handler were not the best choices but the brunt of the public anger was with owners initial handling of the incident and not so much with what the dogs did. Both the victim and the dog owners had spoken leading up to the hearing and the victim was in full agreement with what was proposed for restrictions on the two dogs and to-date the dog owners have been 100% compliant.   If an incident rises to the ultimate levels of where euthanasia is the only option it will be recommended by this department.

We are all pet owners (with the exception of one because they’re beyond allergic) and we too can get caught up in the overwhelming passion that comes with pet ownership but, it is our responsibility to step back and review the big picture.  Personally, my opinion is consistent with one of a previous commenters, if my animal attacked someone and caused unprovoked harm to another I, as hard as it is, would make a very difficult decision on my own and not get to this level where a hearing was needed but that’s just me.  Every animal case is handled with care as if it were our own pet or a family member.  If you have ever worked on an animal case passion is one of the #1 drive behind a majority of incidents.  Unfortunately, passion can often overpower fact and reality, that’s where we have to sort through it so we can find the facts and make a decision.  This is how the fair and logical recommendations were made by Animal Control to the BOS.  They were not reduced nor did they go above and beyond the recommendations.  This was because of the facts that were presented from the investigations and the restrictions imposed fit the incident.

Now to address some other issues mentioned.  The ACO is not part time as mentioned.  The position was reduced a couple of years ago by 8 hours to 32 hours per week, Im not sure as to the reasoning because I was not involved at the time.

Working on our own time goes for the whole Department.  We all contribute extra time in the best interest of the town regularly,  we know what we signed up for and I could not ask for a more dedicated team that always gives 110%.

Placing the ACO under WDNR from WPD (alphabet soup) has allowed us to return the animal control not only back into the original 5 days per week from 4, but now we are 7 day a week coverage along with evenings.  If you read a story recently in another paper the WPD reported going to 162 incidents on a Monday, 162!!! We have taken all additional responses normally covered by the wpd that would have been in addition to the 162 so they can handle more pressing issues.  We are all empowered to enforce the laws of the commonwealth and can serve criminal process due to our training and appointments so yes, we are the law enforcement agency overseeing ACO operations.  We have filed more dangerous dog hearings in the last two month than the recent previous couple of years leading up to our merger.  I would hope this shows we are taking these incidents very seriously and we will continue to do so.


As for the the police department handling ACO, it’s a mix.  We have followed the successful plan of Yarmouth Natural Resources and various other communities where Natural Resources handles the ACO duties.  This is becoming more of a trend especially in communities such as ours.  We deal with fisheries & wildlife so it may as well include their distant relative the domestic pet.

Finally I have to repeat with respect to the selectmen being the hearing board, they were fair and firm with the animal owners and did not lessen our recommendations nor did they go overboard, same as you would hope to expect when going to court (yes I know not all experiences are the same). If we feel that an incident warrants a stricter recommendation then it will be pursued.

Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Jul 12, 2018 11:20

Gary - thanks.  It is hard to remain frustrated with a straight shooter like you explaining everything so well.  I feel better.   Wareham needs more like you!  The lack of facts causes assuming and negativity (good thing I don't live in a glass house). Too bad  some of the things you've explained weren't in some of the original articles. I guess hindsight is 20/20 so it's probably not possible. Thanks again!

Posted by: OnsetTogether | Jul 12, 2018 13:12

Thank you for the clarification, glad the ACO is back to full time.

Posted by: Garry B. | Jul 12, 2018 13:19

A negative pet experience no matter the severity can trigger so many levels of anger that it’s mind blowing.  We get inundated with messages of frustration, what we’re doing wrong, how it should be handled, didn’t do enough, did too much, etc.... then throw in the word pitbull and all hell breaks loose:(.  All part of the job so it’s just sorted through and handled.  At the end of the day we get it and everyone is entitled to their opinion thats what keeps everyone on their toes! Lol    Have a great weekend, weather looks on point again!!!!  And don’t forget the Swan Festival on Main Street Saturday!

Posted by: montana20 | Jul 12, 2018 17:33

YYou all have very good points. Thank you for making things more clear. However honestly I'm excited that the animal control officer is this involved .I've called her on a number of occasions and to no avail.  Always an excuse not to come out. Not to venture into my town. Glad she's doing something

Posted by: Society for Suppression of Noise | Jul 12, 2018 23:54

Negative pet experience?  Please explain when a vicious attack, or a serious threat from an animal taught to not fear humans, becomes a mere "pet experience".  Perhaps there's a reason some of us are angry about not being able to go for a simple walk.

Posted by: bob | Jul 13, 2018 12:36

Why wasn't the dog owner notify  on time.is it the office staff or who drop the ball.


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