Sunderland Select Board imposes strict measures on dog after ‘tragic’ attack

  • Sunderland Police Chief Erik Demetropoulos; Selectboard members Nathanial Waring, Christyl Drake-Tremblay and Chair Tom Fydenkevez; and Town Administrator Geoff Kravitz listen to testimony during a dog hearing Monday night. STAFF PHOTO/CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer
Monday, December 26, 2022

SUNDERLAND — After three hours of testimony and deliberation, the Select Board imposed strict measures on a dog that attacked a neighbor, leaving bites and scratches on his face and arms.

On Oct. 25, Lobo, a 1½-year-old Maremma, attacked neighbor and Hadley resident Michael Sniadach, 81, when he stopped by the house on South Plain Road to give the dog a ham bone while owner Shiun-Fen Luo was not home. Upon arrival, Sniadach, according to his son, Paul Sniadach, gave Lobo the bone and began to play with him before turning around to leave, when the dog jumped on him.

Michael Sniadach reportedly pushed the dog away before Lobo went back at him.

“I feel really bad,” Luo said of Michael Sniadach. “He’s my friend and he’s a good man. We don’t know what happened that day. Michael came in with the smell of kielbasa and the bone, and Lobo is just a puppy and jumped up really excited … I do everything I can to be a responsible owner with my property and the way I train Lobo.”

With the severity of Sniadach’s injuries and a list of other nuisance complaints from neighbors, the Select Board spared Lobo’s life, but ordered the following list of conditions:

■Lobo must always be supervised when outside, while also being confined in a pen or dog run in the yard.

■He cannot be tethered to an inanimate object for more than five hours in a 24-hour period, nor can he be outside from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

■He must be leashed and muzzled when off of Luo’s property.

■He must be neutered within 90 days, unless a vet declares the procedure cannot be done due to medical complications.

“I don’t want to see the dog euthanized at this point,” Select Board Chair Tom Fydenkevez said. “It was a tragic thing that happened.”

Neighbors present at the hearing said the dog has never been violent in the past, but they have been fearful for themselves and their own pets when Lobo broke away from his owners soon after they got him. Luo said she has put up an electric fence and Lobo has not broken out since then.

Paul Sniadach, who testified on his father’s behalf because he was home sick, said his dad was “bleeding profusely” from his injuries and that he and his sister had to clean his wounds for two weeks during his recovery. Mary King, Michael Sniadach’s daughter, showed the Select Board and residents in attendance photos of her dad’s injuries, which showed severe bleeding along his arms and wrists and a deep cut near his eye.

The dog complaint was filed by Paul Sniadach because Michael Sniadach did not wish to file one, according to Sunderland Animal Control Officer Emmie Martin.

Additionally, Michael Sniadach signed a statement with Luo stating he has a skin condition that causes him to bleed easily. However, both Paul Sniadach and King denied their father had such a condition.

Despite Luo — and, according to her testimony, Michael Sniadach — characterizing it as an accident, Town Counsel Gregg Corbo recommended labeling the dog as “dangerous” due to the severity of the injuries and because Lobo attacked someone he knew.

“It appears undisputed that the gentlemen entered the gate with the intention of feeding the animal. He was not threatening in any way,” Corbo said. “Whether he was more prone to bleeding … those pictures show a very serious attack and a very deep injury to this person.”

The Select Board agreed with Corbo’s assessment and voted to impose the strict restrictions on Lobo.

“From my perspective, the attack was a vicious attack,” said board member Nathanial Waring. “This was not a ‘Whoops, the dog’s tooth caught his arm’ situation.”

Fydenkevez thanked Paul Sniadach, King, Luo and all the residents in attendance for staying at the hearing through three hours of testimony.

“Sniadach family, I’m sorry this happened,” Fydenkevez said. “For the residents here, I know it may seem like a long, drawn-out affair, but I think we ended up doing what was best for the neighborhood and the dog. … It was very important that you were here, thank you.”