The panel had already imposed seven of the 10 sanctions on the Bristol pit bull and its owner Josh Brightman, following the the first hearing last year. At that time, Mr. Brightman was ordered to keep Buster muzzled and leashed when off his Baker Street property, micro-chip and register the dog, display a “vicious dog” sign on his property, notify police if the dog gets loose, and pay a fine.
On Wednesday, a panel consisting of Bristol police Sgt. Julie Veader, Special Agent Joe Warzycha with the Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Portsmouth Animal Control Officer Ariel Fisher, further fined Mr. Brightman, and now required Buster to be muzzled anytime he leaves his house.“I get that he’s out with the dog when the dog is outside, but I’m taking your word on that,” said Officer Warzycha. “But we don’t have eyes in the back of our head. He could get loose and bite someone.”
The panel was convened to address an Aug. 28 incident wherein Buster allegedly attacked a postal carrier, which essentially stopped mail delivery to that street for a week.
Mr. Brightman, along with seven supporters, showed up to Wednesday’s hearing, held at the Bristol Police Department.
Derek Cobb, the postal carrier who alleged he was attacked by Buster, was also present.
Mr. Cobb told the panel that he had parked his mail truck on a nearby street and walked to Baker Street to deliver the mail, a route he’s had for about six weeks. As he delivered mail to 6 Baker, he approached the next home, 8 Baker, and saw Buster out of the corner of his eye trot down the steps of 10 Baker.
“I saw him come off the porch, and I was just like, hey buddy what are you doing out?” Mr. Cobb said. “He then started to growl, show his teeth, and the fur on his back and shoulders stood up.”
Mr. Cobb said he shouted at the dog on three separate occasions, each time Buster would continue to walk toward him after looking behind him. It was the third time that Mr. Cobb took out his pepper spray and shot the dog in the face.
“I felt bad about it too,” he said, adding that he’d been attacked by a dog before.
The dog had gotten loose because Mr. Brightman’s 3-year-old daughter Mya, had opened the front door, looking for her dad. As she did so, Buster pushed past her and ventured outside.
“I heard him barking and looked out the window and saw him standing in the street,” said Nancy Lowney, who has lived in the apartment above Mr. Brightman for the past two years. Mr. Brightman only recently rented the first-floor apartment, about eight months ago.
“I know Buster and am familiar with him, so I didn’t know how he got out,” Ms. Lowney told panelists. “I was going to just run downstairs and keep him in my apartment until (the owners) got home.”
But by the time she reached the driveway, the dog had already been brought inside by Mr. Brightman.
Mr. Brightman had already insured Buster for up to $500,000 voluntarily, and therefor that sanction was not imposed.
“He’s showing responsibility with that,” Sgt. Veader said, “so I don’t think it’s necessary make that a rule.”
Only testimony about the incident was allowed to be heard. No one was allowed to offer comments about the dog’s historical behavior, charisma, or lack thereof.
The post office altered the way it delivers mail to Baker Street as a result of the Aug. 28 incident. Mr. Brightman installed two mailboxes where the property line meets the street, allowing mail delivery from within a mail truck.
“We don’t have to leave the safety of the truck, so coming into contact with another dog is not likely,” Mr. Cobb told panelists.
The panel told those in attendance up front that it would not, and legally could not consider euthanizing Buster because it had not bitten or violently attacked a human.
Mr. Brightman is also not allowed to sell or get rid of Buster, ensuring that the town is able to keep track of the dog. Should Mr. Brightman no longer want Buster, the dog would have to be euthanized.
Buster is only one of two dogs in Bristol deemed “vicious.” The owners of the second dog, also a pit bull, are currently contesting that judgement in district court.