Tucker, a two-year-old golden retriever, is on trial for biting a Nahant woman.

Good boy or bad dog? Nahant pet facing potential extradition

NAHANT — The town is working to determine the fate of Tucker, a 2-year-old golden retriever who bit Emily Spinucci, of Sunset Road, when she grabbed him by the collar last month.

Spinucci called forth an animal dangerousness hearing before Dog Hearing Officer Jennifer McCarthy, Town Administrator Tony Barletta, and Town Counsel Dan Skrip. There, Spinucci urged the town to rule Tucker a dangerous dog and order his euthanasia. One big problem — Tucker is in Atlanta.

“I request that the town counsel have a ruling to get the dog back in here so that the euthanasia determination can be carried out,” Spinucci said. “That’s a murderer, and you’re letting him live.”

On May 5, Spinucci knocked on her neighbor David Horrigan’s door to pay his family a visit. When Horrigan, Tucker’s then-owner, opened the door, Tucker ran out to greet her. Spinucci bent down to pat the dog, and when she stood up, the dog ran off down the street.

Horrigan and Spinucci walked down the hill trying to retrieve the retriever. While Horrigan walked back to get his car, Spinucci followed Tucker to Spring Road, where he stopped to defecate.

In a letter to Animal Control Officer Scott Grieves, Spinucci wrote that she bent down at the waist to catch Tucker while he stopped to do his business. She wrote that the dog then bit her hand and forearm when she grabbed his collar.

“I screamed, backing away, and Tucker kept jumping up and biting my forearm multiple times,” Spinucci wrote. “I began kicking him while trying to get away from him. He lunged at me, biting me in the hip.”

Spinucci wrote that the bite to her hip sent her to the ground, where she alleged the dog continued to bite her. After she suffered bruises and cuts to her torso, face, hip, and leg, Spinucci urged Horrigan to put Tucker down.

Horrigan consulted his veterinarian, Dr. Steven Stasiak, who he said was unwilling to euthanize Tucker. In an open letter, Stasiak wrote that Spinucci had provoked Tucker.

“This person grabbed Tucker by the neck while he was trying to defecate. I believe this incident was caused by human error. This bite was provoked,” Stasiak wrote. “I do not believe that Tucker should be considered a dangerous dog or euthanized due to behavioral issues.”

Following his veterinarian's advice, Horrigan did not euthanize Tucker, and instead arranged to surrender him to his breeder in Atlanta — a move that he said was to “do the right thing” for Spinucci.

“I couldn’t put the dog down if I wanted to,” Horrigan said. “Emily should not have to live in the same town as this dog.”

Spinucci, however, was not satisfied with Tucker’s relocation, and requested that the town rule to bring the dog back to Nahant to be euthanized.

“We made our point perfectly clear that we wanted that dog to die. Why did you then send the dog back? You’re your own judge and jury, David Horrigan, with no regard for me as the victim. You’re victimizing me again,” she said at the hearing.

In response to Spinucci’s request, Skrip said the town did not have legal authority to order Tucker’s breeder to send him back to Nahant.

“If you’re asking the legal question of whether or not we have the authority to go into another state and pull Tucker into Massachusetts, we’d have to research that, but it would be a long shot, to be frank,” Skrip said at the hearing on May 31.

Animal-dangerousness hearings, although held on a local level, are governed by the Commonwealth. According to Chapter 140, Section 157 of Massachusetts General Law, dogs deemed dangerous can be ordered to a number of conditions such as being muzzled, humanely restrained, confined to the owner’s home, or humanely euthanized.

The law also stipulates that a dog can not be deemed dangerous if it acted in response to being provoked, teased, threatened, or assaulted.

Since Horrigan no longer owns Tucker and the dog no longer resides in Massachusetts, Skrip said the town’s ruling would ultimately only be recognized in the Commonwealth.

Spinucci also requested that the town block Horrigan from ever obtaining a dog license again in the future — a request that Horrigan said was unreasonable and unwarranted.

“There is no evidence suggesting there was negligence in our care of Tucker — no evidence whatsoever,” Horrigan said. “There’s just no basis, legally or otherwise, that we should not be allowed to have another dog.”

McCarthy said the Town of Nahant will likely make a decision on whether Tucker should be considered dangerous within the next two weeks. Some Nahant residents, such as the Horrigans’ friend and neighbor Jean Inglis— who amended her “Protect Nahant Coyotes” lawn sign to include “Protect Tucker” — believed the hearing process was unnecessary.

“I don’t understand why the town is getting involved with this. Tucker is in a new state with a new owner, and they still went ahead with this hearing,” Inglis said. “The town already hired sharpshooters to kill coyotes around town, which in my opinion is animal cruelty, so I certainly hope they don’t come after domesticated dogs next.”

An amended "Protect Nahant Coyotes" sign stands outside Jean Inglis' home on Nahant Road. (Anthony Cammalleri)

Horrigan’s attorney, Jeremy Cohen, echoed Horrigan’s remarks, adding that Spinucci’s request to essentially extradite a golden retriever, in his opinion, was completely unwarranted for an animal bite.

“This is where delusion sets in — the idea that she wants to see the dog hung in town square, or she wants to see blood in the center of town, that’s not how you resolve these cases, it’s just not,” Cohen said. “She thinks that she’s a major victim here, but she’s imparting these human-type instincts to this dog — these negative, mean, angry things that just don’t exist. This is what happens when you get your information from watching TV shows.”

In a written statement, Barletta said the town was taking the incident seriously "as set forth by Chapter 140 Section 157 of MA General Law."

“Out of respect for the process and the parties involved, the Town has no further comment at this time,” Barletta wrote.

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