By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — A Peabody District Court clerk-magistrate has upheld the town’s decision to order a Saunders Road dog to be euthanized, but the fight is far from over.
Town Administrator Rob Dolan ordered Lexi, a Rottweiler mix, to be euthanized in June 2021 after she mauled Grant Road resident Paul Ernest’s leg while he was taking his dog out for a walk on May 13, 2021. After the attack occurred, Ernest and six other residents submitted a petition to the Select Board requesting that Lexi, who lives at 2 Saunders Rd., be classified as a “dangerous dog and that appropriate remedial action be ordered to prevent future attacks.” An emotional public hearing about the dog attack occurred in the Al Merritt Media and Cultural Center last June.
Boston Dog Lawyers attorney Jeremy Cohen appealed Dolan’s decision on behalf of Lexi’s owners Joseph Grant and Anna Costa.
Peabody District Court Clerk-Magistrate Kevin L. Finnegan recalled in a decision issued earlier this month that he heard the case on Nov. 10, 2021. He noted that state law allowed the court to review Grant and Costa’s petition in order to determine whether Dolan’s decision was made “without proper cause or in bad faith.”
“A lengthy hearing was held in which the petitioners’ counsel presented witness testimony, exhibits and case law as well as proffering theories of bad faith to show that the town of Lynnfield improperly arrived at its decision,” stated Finnegan. “After careful review of the testimony, documents and relevant case law, this court finds the petitioners have failed to meet their burden that the town of Lynnfield acted without proper cause or in bad faith in reaching their decision for the humane destruction of the dog known as Lexi. Therefore, the order issued by the town of Lynnfield is affirmed.”
Town Counsel Tom Mullen’s associate Yael Magen, who has represented Lynnfield in various legal cases, told the Villager that she was pleased with Finnegan’s decision.
“We were happy about the court affirming the town’s decision in determining the dog was a dangerous dog and the only way to remedy the situation was to euthanize the dog,” said Magen. “The victim’s bite was extremely severe and the dog took off a huge chunk of the victim’s skin. I talked to many dog experts throughout this case and if this bite would have been on a child or on a different place on the victim’s body, it might have been lethal. The town, the victim and the people in the neighborhood want to ensure this doesn’t happen to anybody ever again. We cannot take a chance that someone will perish because of this dog.”
Cohen informed the Villager that his clients will be requesting a trial date.
“The appeal that was heard was before the clerk-magistrate was solely about whether the town engaged in the proper procedure for the hearing it held and whether or not Mr. Dolan made the decision in bad faith or without proper cause,” stated Cohen. “The appeal was not based on the merits of the matter. This hearing was a prerequisite to be able to now have a full trial before a judge in the Peabody District Court. We are requesting a trial date and I am unsure when that will happen.”
Magen called the Saunders Road dog-mauling case “very tragic for everybody involved.”
“It was not enjoyable for anybody,” said Magen. “This was a very sad decision for the town, but the town had no choice but to render a very tragic decision. The town’s priority is protecting people’s lives and making sure everybody in town is safe.”
Dolan noted in his decision that state law prohibited him from ordering Lexi to be removed from Lynnfield. He recalled that one of Lexi’s owners was trying to restrain Lexi while Ernest and his dog were trying to walk past them, but Lexi managed to break free.
“There is no guarantee I could give a fearful neighborhood that any conditions of confinement would prevent the dog from breaking out and doing the same or even worse harm in the future than it has already done,” Dolan stated.