An English mastiff that has long been a fixture at the Hingham Square Gallery has been sentenced to death by the Hingham selectmen.
An English mastiff that has long been a fixture at the Hingham Square Gallery has been sentenced to death.
Gabriella, an 8-year-old mastiff, has bitten two people in the retail space since 2008, police said.
On Tuesday, selectmen unanimously voted to accept Animal Control Officer Leslie Badger’s recommendation: that Gabriella be destroyed.
Robert and Megan Ullman, who own the gallery, Gabriella and Spartacus, another English mastiff, said they will appeal.
Selectmen’s decision, which also bans Spartacus from Hingham Square, was made after a tense hearing that pitted the bite victims and police against the Ullmans, who were described as “irresponsible pet owners” who showed little compassion after the attacks.
“This is not a dog problem, it is an owner problem,” said Selectmen Chairman Laura Burns, who expressed regret that the dog would have to be put down.
The Ullmans refused to remove the dogs from the gallery following the first incident, in June 2008, and lied about the first incident when the dog bit a second woman in June of this year, Badger said.
In both incidents, the women were attacked after entering the unlocked gallery, where Megan Ullman had left the dogs unattended. The victims, Krista Cowell, 23, of Braintree and Stacey Wakefield, 37, of Hingham, told police that the Ullmans showed little concern after they were told of the attacks. Wakefield is the wife of Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield.
Robert Ullman called Cowell’s request for payment of her emergency room bill “extortion.”
Badger said her primary concern was the owners’ disregard for public safety after the attacks, after they continued to bring the dogs to the store despite a formal order.
Had a child been attacked, the bites would have been at the height of the child’s head or neck, said Badger, who showed photographs of one of the victim’s wounds.
“I don’t want to see that happen in Hingham,” she said.
Robert Ullman said the dogs had been exposed to as many as 30,000 people while at the store, and that the two attacks were not typical behavior. He offered to keep both dogs at home.
Officials said the Ullmans’ refusal to keep the dogs away from the gallery after the attacks made it impossible to trust their judgment and left selectmen with little choice.
“There is precious little on which you can base an assumption that there will be responsible behavior in the future when there has been such abjectly irresponsible behavior in the past,” Town Administrator Kevin Paicos said.
Banning the dog from Hingham would only make the danger another community’s problem, Badger said.
Following the vote, Megan Ullman left the meeting room visibly upset, while her husband stayed to ask about an appeal.
Hingham Police Chief Taylor Mills said the town would rather ban a dog than euthanize it, but it wasn’t an option in this case.
“This was very sad,” Mills said, “but it was the second bite that precipitated this response.”
A criminal complaint against the Ullmans regarding the second bite is awaiting action in Hingham District Court. A case involving the first bite was resolved last year, Mills said.
The Patriot Ledger