Pit Bull Debate Comes to a Head for Mansfield Selectmen

Selectmen argue the case of a pit bull named Rocco, who was euthanize, at the Mansfield Animal Shelter.

This week, authorities in Mansfield decided to euthanize a pit-bull named Rocco at the Mansfield Animal Shelter, which has stirred controversy both inside and outside of town.

The Mansfield Board of Selectmen stated that they received several letters from concerned parties stating their objections to the dog’s euthanasia and the reasoning for the decision.

According to Mansfield town manager William Ross, he, animal control officer Jeff Collins and Mansfield police chief Arthur O’Neill discussed the matter intently before making a final decision.  They all agreed that, for the good of public safety, the dog was to be euthanized.

“This dog would not have been acceptable to a rescue or shelter,” he said. “There are emotions playing on both sides of this."

During the controversy, several Mansfield Animal Shelter volunteers and residents stated that they were under the impression the shelter was a no kill shelter.

“Contrary to what you may have heard…  the [Mansfield Animal Shelter] has never said this is a no kill shelter,” he said. “Every volunteer signs an application that states it is not a no kill shelter… Every person who works there was put on notice.”

The main argument against euthanizing the dog was that it had never bitten anyone. According to Ross and several Mansfield Animal Shelter volunteers, the dog had been given up for adoption twice before coming to Mansfield.

Ross said that Collins’ main worry about the dog was during his time in Mansfield, over a year, during three occasions the dog “zeroed in” on groups of small children. The dog was also described as quick to growl and bare its teeth.

Selectman George Dentino said he would have liked, as a member of the highest government authority in the town, to have had the decision made by the selectmen. He said that the result might have been different if more residents were able to get their voice heard.

“I think we went too fast, too hard and didn’t give everybody come in to voice an opinion and maybe send this dog somewhere where he could saved,” he said. “There are places that take these dogs that are non kill that try to train them. I don’t enjoy the fact that there wasn’t enough thought put into this.”

Selectman chair Olivier Kozlowski countered with the fact that, even though in cases of private dog owners an appeals hearing could be enacted, in cases where the town owns said animal, the highest authority in such a case would be the police chief.

“Even if we voted 5-0 [against euthanizing the dog] we would not [legally] be able to direct him in any way,” Kozlowski said.

Several residents, on both sides of the issue, spoke during the meeting.

Norton resident Patricia Reagan said that she believed the issue to be a bias against pit bulls, which she said was now currently against the law.

“Going forward, I would like to suggest some education to the animal,” she said.

Attleboro resident Kim Pentway said she agreed that there was a pit bull bias in the decision.

“One of the first things animal control officer [Jeff Collins] said to me was stay away from that dog,” she said.

Did you think Mansfield officials made the right decision the case of Rocco, a pit bull, being euthanize? Tell us in the comment section.

BH December 13, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Go to any shelter and sit there for 24 hours and just watch a dog in a cage, now tell me that's a quality of life. People quickly change the channel when a dog rescue infomercial comes on showing sad, caged dogs, yet they felt this dog was just fine stuck in that situation. It's also expensive to take care of dogs, feed them, medical expenses, arrange for a family or a move to a different shelter. There is only one paid employee that works at the shelter, this isn't a fully funded hospital with all the options in the world. People kill people everyday, states kill people, individuals celebrate war with bumper stickers on their cars, but put one dog to sleep and you are the ultimate villain and your job and lifestyle should suffer for it. An innocent family killed in Afghanistan is no big deal, this is a cute dog, right?
karen whitaker December 13, 2012 at 05:03 PM
I side with the experienced person, which would be Jeff Collins. He obviously saw undesireable, and potentially dangerous behavior. No one would be happy if anyone, child, adult, or otherwise another animal were to be attacked by "accident". Who wants to give an accident a chance to happen? Furthermore, I would not want an animal that I could not trust. Although a decision was based on a dog "looking at children" a certein way, I know it was the right descision. Behaviors don't lie, ever.
Mansfield Animal Shelter December 13, 2012 at 05:13 PM
For information on the facts, not the misinformation, on the Rocco case, see www.mansfieldshelter.org.
BH December 13, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Sorry folks, can't argue with a true first hand account. Way more validity than an hour long visit from a trainer. Every animal and human has moments and periods of relaxation, that is no "expert" basis to make an accurate determination. In fact I find it unprofessional at best.
Bob Thomas December 13, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Massachusetts has laws that say a dog may be put down if it "worries" someone or something (like livestock) in a menacing way. I'll have to dig out the little read booklet and pass on the title later on. It basically says that if a person is attacked or threatened, or his family or livestock are threatened by a dog, that person has the right to shoot the dog without legal repercussions. That being said, this particular dog was an orphan that no one wanted. How do we know that by growling and baring its teeth that it was not introducing its self and asking someone to love it? How do we know that the dog was not terrorized by the children in whose homes it previously lived and was warning the group of kids to leave it alone? No one knows what the dog was up to - they just assumed that the dog was trouble. But who did it "worry" as the law describes? It sounds like some people jumped the gun in this case. Someone should track down the original owner and find out why they gave up a dog that might have cost them a pretty penny. There is more in the back story to this tale.
BH December 13, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Bob click the link in the above post and read the owners first hand account.
karen whitaker December 13, 2012 at 06:12 PM
I read the facts. I still agree with the town manager, ACO, and Cheif of Police. I'd rather be safe than sorry. It doesn't matter about the breed. It's more the unpredictability and safety concern that was in question. I've been there, done that; it's not a fun road to go down.
Robyn December 13, 2012 at 08:05 PM
I do not agree with their decision to euthanize Rocco, this dog should have been placed with the rescue or with the dog trainer that offered to take him in. With all the publicity this story has gotten and the witnesses coming forward, it looks as though Rocco was treated differently than the other animals at the shelter. If this was the "right" decision to make than the shelter wouldnt have lost as many volunteers as they did.
Robert Reynolds December 13, 2012 at 09:17 PM
Getting an opinion from Kosloski is a waste of time. I watched a case come before the selectmen invloving a dog who attached a young girl on a bike. Koslowski asked the dog owner to outline what he was going to do to prevent this from occurring again. The man clearly outlined a plan of correction in responce to his question. Then Koslowski votes against the guy. Why did he ask the question in the first place. I think Koslowski is a pompous ass for what he pulled. I sure all the bum kissers will come to his defence but he works for me just as all government employees. He is a pompous a-hole.
BH December 13, 2012 at 09:54 PM
So should he just make decisions without hearing people? I wonder how the little girl felt about this dog, was she comfortable around it? Was she ok with a plan to treat this dog? What if this dog loved next door to her? Should she have a right to not be nervous to be outside for fear of being attacked again? Nah lets just call him inappropriate names instead because we disagree. Again, your tax dollars kill innocent people everyday in other countries and people show 100 times more regard and anger over an aggressive dog being put down.
Tina Silverio December 14, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Yes, could we leave the name-calling out of it? What exactly was "pulled"? Perhaps they didn't feel comfortable enough with what was being proposed as safeguards. Seriously, any official sort of person has to keep in mind everyone, not just an animal and a few people. Perhaps the animal could be trained, eventually. Who wants to be the one named as responsible if someone gets injured? Who wants to get sued? Worst, who wants that decision, resulting in an injury, weighing on their mind for forever? Mind you I love critters and have had pets all my life and still do. I don't say what I'm saying lightly. The officials are accountable to everyone in this town.
Bob Thomas December 14, 2012 at 11:41 PM
Ah, the back story surfaces. Missed it earlier. But who were the original owners and what did they do to the dog is the question I still have.
Catherine Delise December 15, 2012 at 08:28 PM
So this local trio likes to play God and decide over life and death of an innocent ???? They murder a dog that has never had a chance in life because he is "an accident waiting to happen" ???? Are these idiots going to ban all cars in their barbaric town because they're all an accident waiting to happen ???? Damn assasins, this dog had the right to live !!!!!
Robyn December 20, 2012 at 07:55 PM
The decision to put Rocco down was made too quickly, there were options available, it didn’t need to come to this . This dog needed to be placed with the appropriate person, someone who understood his needs and has experience working with dogs from similar backgrounds. This dog hadn't attacked anyone, growling does not mean that this dog was vicious or going to harm someone, he simply could have been protecting himself from being picked on while living in a cage at the shelter. Rocco was a puppy when he was found, we don’t know how long he was a stray so he most likely did not receive any sort of training prior to the two weeks of training he received when he was sent by the shelter. All dogs are different, not every dog is fully trained in two weeks, especially when they are placed back into a shelter afterwards. People who have committed horrific crimes are given second chances all the time but a dog who has lived a lousy first few years of his life doesn’t deserve to be saved?
stacy December 21, 2012 at 09:00 PM
This dog was never given a chance to be outside of the shelter in a suitable enviornment. An experienced dog behaviorlist is certainly one that could and would have trained Rocco and understood his needs as would a breed specific rescue. Just because you are an ACO does not make you the expert in dog behavior and a nd the sole source for deeming a dog dangerous. This dog had many other options that were presented but the decision was made long before this so called growling incident. Rocco went for a 2 week in house dog training/eval and was deemed completely adoptable. So here we have it, a dog behaviorlist, a dog trainer who spent extended amounts of time with this dog deemed him completely adoptable and non aggressive. A breed specific recue offered to come in and evaluate this dog and if he passed evals, place him in a foster home with an experienced dog trainer. All offers were refused. If they were so sure he was aggressive, wouldn't one think they would have let those offers for a "professional" eval to take place and have been sure before they made the final decision. It was not allowed and the reason is noone wanted to be proven wrong. Rescue was refused LONG before the so called "incident". What was the excuse then? When they were told that adopting out a high energy dog to a woman due to have a baby at any time was not a good placement, why did they still go ahead with it? The facts are the facts and most of you commenting dont know the true facts. RIP Rocco
Robyn December 27, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Stacy, I couldn't agree with you more!


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