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Dog ordered euthanized by Hingham; bit Wakefield's wife

Posted by Your Town  October 29, 2009 05:43 AM

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An 8-year-old English mastiff was ordered to be euthanized last night after Hingham selectmen heard testimony that it bit two women, including the wife of Red Sox pitcher Tim Wakefield, at a Hingham art gallery.

Hingham selectmen voted 3-0 last night to have the dog euthanized after the two women, Stacey Wakefield and Krista Brewer, recounted separate incidents in which the dog, named Gabriella, bit them as they entered the store.

‘‘It shouldn’t have happened to me, and it shouldn’t have happened again,’’ Mrs. Wakefield said after the hearing.

Even though Gabriella bit them, the two women were surprised by the selectmen’s decision to euthanize the dog. ‘‘It’s terrible the dog has to be euthanized,’’ Brewer said. ‘‘It’s not what we wanted, but the next time it could be a child.’’

Wakefield sat in the back row of the hearing room last night with her husband.

Gabriella and another mastiff named Spartacus are owned by Megan and Bob Ullman. Megan Ullman said the two dogs were popular features at the Ullman’s Hingham Square Art Gallery until the biting incidents.

The first episode occurred in June 2008 when Gabriella bit Stacey Wakefield, who had walked into the gallery as Ullman stepped outside and did not lock the door behind her. The second woman was allegedly bitten a year later.

Wakefield said when she opened the door the two dogs came at her barking as her hand was still on the latch. She said she backed out of the doorway and onto the sidewalk and pounded the gallery’s window in hope someone inside would come out and restrain the dogs.

She recalled that Spartacus swept past her onto the sidewalk, while Gabriella nipped at her hand and kept coming for her, eventually biting through a pair of shorts and piercing her thigh, creating an open wound.

The Ullmans, who have insisted the dog is not vicious, said they would appeal last night’s decision in Hingham District Court and fight to have it reversed. The couple say the dogs have been a welcome sight for thousands of customers who have visited the gallery since it opened five years ago, and they have been invited to visit a local school, as well.

‘‘This is a gross reaction to the situation,’’ Bob Ullman said at his home after the hearing. He said he will also try to have the court order the dog returned to the family while the appeal plays out.

Animal Control Officer Leslie Badger, who recommended that Gabriella be euthanized, and two police officers arrived at the Ullmans’ Simmons Road home shortly after the meeting and took the dog to an undisclosed location.

The other dog owned by the family, Spartacus, has been banned from the Ullman’s art gallery and all of Hingham Square. Selectmen also ordered that Spartacus always be kept on a leash in any public place, have his collar and licenses on, and all his shots up-to-date. Gabriella is Spartacus’s mother.

The Ullmans will also be required to take Spartacus to a professional dog trainer.

Laura Burns, chairwoman of the selectmen, said she was very sorry to have to make the euthanization decision, but added that the Ullmans did not control Gabriella the first time and a second person was bitten, showing a ‘‘singular disregard for the safety of the public.’’

‘‘That singular lack of judgment makes me feel we can’t trust [the Ullmans] to make the right judgments in the future,’’ Burns said.

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