NAHANT — The town ruled that Tucker — the 2-year-old golden retriever that bit Sunset Road resident Emily Spinucci on May 5 — is a dangerous dog in a written notice released Tuesday.
This decision, however, does not align with Spinucci’s original request to have Tucker brought back from Atlanta to be euthanized.
The town ordered that Tucker be confined to the Sunset Road home of his former owner, David Horrigan, behind either a locked pen or a fully-enclosed fence in the event that the dog ever returns to Nahant from Atlanta. The ruling would also require Horrigan to install an electric fence around the perimeter of his property and have Tucker neutered.
If the dog returns to Nahant, Tucker must be muzzled and confined to a leash no longer than three feet when he is not on Horrigan’s property.
The notice, written by Dog Hearing Officer Jennifer McCarthy, states that the ruling was based off of evidence including photographs of Spinucci’s bite marks, her blood-stained pants, and her verbal testimony at a May 31 animal-dangerousness hearing.
“[Tucker] behaved in a manner that a reasonable person would believe poses an unjustified imminent threat to a person or to a domestic or owned animal,” McCarthy wrote.
On May 5, Spinucci tried to help Horrigan bring Tucker back to his house after the dog escaped through the front door and ran down the street. When Tucker stopped to defecate, Spinucci grabbed his collar, and the dog bit her hand and forearm.
After Spinucci backed away and began kicking Tucker, he lunged at her hip, knocking her down and biting her face and hip.
“I screamed, backing away, and Tucker kept jumping up and biting my forearm multiple times,” Spinucci wrote in a letter to Animal Control Officer Scott Grieves. “I began kicking him while trying to get away from him. He lunged at me, biting me in the hip.”
In her ruling, McCarthy referenced the fact that the dog was grabbed in a vulnerable state.
“Enough evidence was provided, though, to show that the incident was an attack, not just a dog defending himself. Tucker’s reaction was grossly disproportionate to the situation,” McCarthy wrote.
After the attack, Spinucci insisted that Horrigan have Tucker euthanized. Horrigan said he consulted his veterinarian, Dr. Steven Stasiak, who said he believed Tucker was provoked.
“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 in an open letter. “I do not believe that Tucker should be considered a dangerous dog or euthanized due to behavioral issues.”
Horrigan said he would not be able to euthanize Tucker even if he wanted to, and surrendered the dog to his breeder in Atlanta.
Horrigan said he did so to “do the right thing” for Spinucci, as he did not want her to have to live in the same town as Tucker. However, Spinucci was unsatisfied and requested that McCarthy rule that Tucker be brought back to Nahant to be euthanized.
At the hearing, Horrigan said he had no intention of bringing Tucker back to Nahant out of respect for Spinucci. According to the written ruling, Horrigan would have to notify Grieves 12 hours prior to Tucker’s return if he brings the dog back to town.
Horrigan’s attorney Jeremy Cohen said that despite the ruling, Horrigan would not bring the dog back to Nahant.
“That was never his plan. We wished Mrs. Spinucci understood that he was doing something that 9 out of 10 dog owners in the same situation wouldn’t do,” Cohen said. “He put that front and center, and made it the first option by removing the dog from the town so everybody would feel comfortable.”
Cohen said that Horrigan was pleased with the ruling, as Tucker’s life was spared.
“He’s happy because the facts prevailed,” Cohen said. “The loudest voices in the room shouldn’t always win and Nahant got it right. It’s pretty cool to be able to see that, because not every city or town gets it right. They got the right decision the right way through the facts… It’s a win because this was not a case where a dog should die.”
As of 6 p.m. Wednesday, Spinucci could not be reached for comment.