THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

Dog who bit toddler spared death, will go to animal center

By Taylor M. Miles
Globe Correspondent / February 26, 2011

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Skippy, the golden retriever who was facing a death sentence after biting a 1-year-old in Freetown, has been spared.

The Freetown Board of Selectmen voted Thursday night not to carry out an order to euthanize the dog, but instead ruled that he will be sent to the South Coast Center for Animal Rescue and Education in New Bedford. There, he is to be evaluated and potentially rehabilitated prior to determining whether he is safe for a new owner, Selectmen chairman Lawrence Ashley said.

“This outcome is really in the best interest of all,’’ Ashley said, including Thomas Locke, the dog’s owner, “the town, and most importantly, Skippy.’’

Just two days ago, Ashley told the Globe that putting down the 90-pound, 4-year-old retriever after two attacks on the owner’s granddaughter, Jordan, was still a possibility, but one he hoped would not happen. The decision to release Skippy to the animal rescue center takes the responsibility for the dog off of the town, Ashley said.

Locke could not be reached for comment last night.

Ashley said the town was “forced into action’’ after the first time Skippy bit Jordan, in October, because Locke did not adhere to the selectmen’s stipulation.

Selectmen had ordered him to have the dog neutered and trained, and keep him under quarantine when at home so that he could not be alone with Jordan, Ashley said.

The bite caused a laceration on Jordan that required 12 stitches.

Just before Christmas, a second incident occurred where Skippy growled and snapped at Jordan as she walked by, and ultimately bit her finger, according to town officials and the 911 call from Locke’s daughter, Cassandra. Thomas Locke, however, said the dog only scratched his granddaughter.

Town officials said they are waiting for Thomas Locke, who is now Skippy’s former owner, to meet certain conditions before the dog is released to the rescue center.

He must pay $2,500 for kennel, legal, and police expenses, and make a $250 donation to an animal shelter of his choice. The town is waiting to hear whether he has agreed to make the donation, Ashley said.

A “Free Skippy’’ Facebook page had 5,239 supporters as of late last night. According to the “Free Skippy’’ fund website, $3,583 has been raised so far to help cover the expenses.

In a comment on the Facebook page, Cassandra Locke, the mother of the toddler, thanked supporters for their donations.

A spokesman for South Coast CARE was not available for comment.

Taylor M. Miles can be reached at tmiles@globe.com.