2017-08-18 / Front Page

Town taking action after dog attacks

By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

ARUNDEL — Following the third dog attack on the Eastern Trail in less than 16 months, and repeated incidents over the past decade, the town of Arundel will seek to remove a “dangerous dog” from the home of its owner and to prevent that person from owning animals in the future.

The decision, approved by selectmen at their Aug. 14 meeting, follows a recent incident in which a senior citizen was attacked to the point of reportedly requiring surgery to repair blood vessels in the area of the bite, near his left elbow.

According to a report filed by Sgt. David Chauvette of the York County Sheriff’s Office, the man was riding his bicycle along the Eastern Trail about noon on Wednesday, July 26, when he came up on William Hallczuk and his unleashed dog just before the Mile 26 marker.

Hallczuk lives nearby on Mountain Road.

The reported victim, an 84-year-old resident of Arundel, also underwent a regimen of rabies treatments as the animal, a 6-year-old white bulldog named Diesel, was not vaccinated, according to the report.

Town Manager Keith Trefethen also said Diesel was not registered, although Chauvette reported that Hallczuk claimed the dog was registered and had been vaccinated at the Animal Welfare Society of West Kennebunk.

“I think it’s time for us to take steps,” Trefethen told selectmen. “People who are walking the Eastern Trail shouldn’t have to be fearful when they come by this person’s residence, that a dog is going to attack them.

“This dog has done this on a frequent basis,” Trefethen said. “This is a situation that has been documented in years past, going back 10 years with other dogs on the same location. This kind of thing has gone long enough that we’re well beyond trying to be reasonable with this.

“I am taking whatever aggressive steps with the ACO [Animal Control Officer] and town attorney we can, not only to have the dog removed, but also to take steps to ensure that this dog owner never has a dog again,” Trefethen said.

“Oh, boy, I hope they don’t try that,” Hallczuk said when reached by the Post Tuesday morning. “I don’t agree with that at all. I owned a kennel at one time and had about a dozen dogs. I admit I had some problems then. But the dogs I have now, they’re both very friendly.”

Hallczuk said his other dog is an American bull terrier.

Trefethen claimed Hallczuk never expressed remorse over the incident — “to this day I don’t think he’s called us or anyone about it,” he said. However, Hallczuk said he does indeed “feel bad” about what happened.

“I ran right out and got some Band-Aids and everything, but he said he was fine.” Hallczuk recalled. “I know him. He’s a nice old man. I haven’t heard from him since, so I have sort of assumed he was OK. It really was just a nip.”

Trefethen, however, had photos taken as part of a half-inch binder of papers documenting past incidents at the Hallczuk property. Those photos appear to show a large gaping area where the skin is pulled back, revealing the musculature beneath.

Still, even with his list of evidence, Trefethen cautioned selectmen that the effort to take Diesel away from the Hallczuk home could be costly and time consuming.

“I’ve become a little bit more knowledgeable recently as to dog laws and I can assure you it’s a lot easier to take a kid away from a parent than it is a dog away from a dog owner, and there’s something wrong with that,” he said.

“Sometimes we keep these kinds of things on the QT because they are kind of isolated incidents, but this has been more of a frequent issue,” Trefethen said. “I felt it was time for the board to publically understand it.”

Selectmen did not need to vote on the issue, but did express support from the course of action charted by the town manager.

“I think we need to take every legal step that we can even if it means going to court,” selectman Velma Hayes said.

“You should move forward as quickly as possible. You have our full support,” selectman Phil Labbe agreed.

Others at Monday’s meeting said Hallczuk’s property, which abuts the Eastern Trail, has been a known danger point for several years.

“I was attacked six or eight years ago,” town recreation director Jenn Welch told selectmen. “The dog was released and watched [by the owner] as it charged after me. It got me on the leg at first. It didn’t break the skin but started snarling and growling. I maced it and it only winced and then kept coming after me. It wasn’t until I got to the property line that he [Hallczuk] called it back.

“This is something that has been going on for a very long time at that location,” Welch said. “He does this on purpose to keep people from going on that section of the trail.”

Hallczuk, however, flatly denies that allegation.

“I’m a very friendly guy,” he said. “I think it’s great living right next to the trail. I get to meet a lot of people when they walk by and have a lot of really great conversations.”

Welch has a different perspective of that portion of the trail.

“Anybody who has asked me about the Eastern Trail since then — and I get calls quite frequently wanting to know how to get on the trail, where it goes and that sort of thing — I have told people to stay off that part of the trail because there are some dangerous dogs there,” she said. “That’s unfortunate. I can just imagine my young child at the time toddling ahead of me and not knowing there was a dog like that and the dog would have taken her face off. I definitely think it’s high time to take action before something even worse that somebody needing surgery on their elbow happens.”

Welch’s experience is believed to have involved a different dog owned by Hallczuk.

“This has been an ongoing issue for quite some time with this gentleman and aggressive dogs,” Sheriff William King said on Tuesday.

Among the documents shared by Trefethen Monday were sheriff’s office reports for similar incidents with the current dogs in March and June of 2016. Chauvette’s report does not identify the dog’s breed, but does describe it as a “large white spotted” animal. Although Halczuk described Diesel as a bulldog, Trefethen said he understood it to be a pit bull.

Trefethen said animal control officer Deborah Laroche has summonsed Hallczuk for harboring a “dangerous dog,” while the sheriff’s office issued another for criminal trespass. Hallczuk said he has an Oct. 2 date in Biddeford District Court on the latter charge.

The victim in the July 26 incident could not be reached. A family member said he underwent a third surgery on Monday, Aug. 14.

“[He] stated that the dog and its owner were on the trail, not in the usual location on their property, but on the trail itself,” Chauvette’s report reads. “He stated as he approached, the dog, which was not on a leash, charged and attacked him.”

Another resident who “assisted the victim off the trail” and to the Arundel Fire Department for treatment by EMTs — leading to transfer to Southern Maine Health Care in Biddeford — reported to Chauvette that “he personally had an issue with the dog the prior weekend.”

“In his opinion that dog was aggressive and had to be held back by the owner,” Chauvette wrote.

“No, that doesn’t sound right. My dogs are really very friendly,” Hallczuk said.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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