LIVERMORE FALLS — A local family is devastated that their dog, Jack, a Jack Russell terrier, was killed by a bull mastiff-mastiff-Rottweiler mix on lower Park Street on Sunday afternoon.
Martin Vining, the owner of Hooch, 9, the larger dog, is also worried about what will happen to his dog.
Bethany Miller, owner of the 4-year-old terrier that was a therapy dog for her and weighed 20 pounds, said Jack was on a leash and out for a walk with her children, ages 14, 16 and 19, when the incident occurred.
“My biggest concern — I’m devastated I lost my dog — but it could have been somebody’s child,” Miller said. “I don’t want to see anybody else get hurt. My dog spent his whole life, when he went out for a walk, on a leash. Something needs to be done about the dog.”
Her husband was taking Jack’s body to the pet crematorium on Monday, she said.
“We’re absolutely devastated,” Miller said.
She plans to get some counseling for her children, who had to watch the attack, she said.
Livermore Falls police officer Vern Stevens initially handled the complaint after he came upon the attack while he was on patrol, police Chief Ernest Steward Jr. said Monday.
The case has been turned over to Animal Control Officer Wayne Atwood, who said a police report and witness statements are being sent down to the Androscoggin County District Attorney’s Office to determine if there will be charges and what will happen to Vining's dog.
That dog also attacked a mail carrier in 2007, and the owner was charged back then with having a dangerous dog, Atwood said.
Miller’s children were about a half-mile from home when someone told them a dog was loose, her son, Kyle Wilson, 19, said.
“We hadn’t gone 5 feet when Hooch came around the corner,” Wilson said.
His younger brother, Jordan Gill, 14, was walking ahead of Wilson and another brother, John Gill, who was holding Jack’s leash, Wilson said.
Hooch gave Jordan a look and then Jack made a step toward Hooch, and the larger animal attacked, Wilson said.
Wilson said he and another man tried to get the dogs apart. Stevens arrived and pulled his Taser, but he couldn’t shoot it because he would have gotten “Jackie,” too, Wilson said.
Vining said he was outside burying another of his dogs that had been previously hit by a vehicle and had to be put down. Hooch was with him and a friend in the yard, he said.
His friend, Vining said, tried to break the two dogs apart, and the friend was bitten by the terrier. Vining took Hooch into the house.
But it was too late, Jack had died, Steward said.
"I didn't see what happened," Vining said. The owners of the terrier know Vining, and usually the small dog is carried by his residence, he said.
They tried to introduce the dogs previously, but Hooch is not very good with certain dogs, Vining said. The terrier was one of the dogs he didn't get along with. He doesn't bother all dogs, he said.
"I've had four or five litters of puppies, and he hasn't bothered any of them," Vining said. He also has chickens and turkeys, and Hooch doesn't bother them either.
The bull mastiff mix was not on a leash, Miller, Wilson and Steward confirmed.
“My dog was on the sidewalk, as were my children,” Miller said.
Wilson said he and his brothers were returning home from bringing “Jackie” back from a walk at the town’s recreation field. He was tired from the walk, Wilson said.
If he had known Hooch was on the loose, he might have done something differently, Wilson said.
"Nothing was done on purpose," Vining said. "I don't know the reason (Hooch) went after the little dog. I cannot control what two dogs do when they get into it."
Vining said that Hooch was not registered this year with the town. He also confirmed his dog bit a mail carrier three years ago, and it cost him $2,200.