Town officials reached an unexpected settlement deal with Colchester resident Jason Hathaway in Vermont Superior Court last Friday, just weeks after handing down a euthanasia enforcement order for his dog.
“No matter what, they weren’t getting my dog,” Hathaway said outside the courtroom. “The dog is going to be 6 years old. He’s been living in Colchester his whole life … Last year we had the one issue, and we haven’t had an issue since.”
Nearly one year ago, Hathaway’s pitbull-Labrador mix, Marley, attacked an 11-year-old Milton girl’s face during a birthday party at Hathaway’s home.
The Colchester Selectboard held a vicious dog hearing in March when the victim’s father brought an official complaint. After several witness testimonies, members of the board unanimously ordered the animal killed. Hathaway appealed their ruling to superior court in April.
Last month, it seemed Hathaway’s appeal would not prove successful. Judge Robert A. Mello dismissed Hathaway’s entire legal challenge against the town after he failed to appear in court for a scheduled hearing on November 29.
With an appeal off the table, the selectboard’s original decision stood. Town officials confirmed they delivered a euthanasia enforcement order to Hathaway’s home on December 14 requiring he surrender the dog or provide proof Marley was “humanely destroyed” within 10 days of receipt.
But Hathaway filed an emergency motion with the court, claiming he never received any scheduling information for the hearing he missed. Mello agreed to hear the motion.
At the start of last Friday’s hearing, Mello sent Hathaway and Colchester town attorney Brian Monaghan to a nearby conference room to discuss a compromise. A short while later, they emerged and announced they had reached a settlement. Mello congratulated the men on the arrangement.
The three-page settlement details extended quarantine conditions for Marley, apparently identical to an agreement that was in the works before the case was dismissed.
The deal requires Marley be confined to a single locked room when guests visit Hathaway’s Prim Rd. home and say he must be leashed and muzzled whenever taken outside or to the veterinarian, according to the court documents.
“That’s how he lives [already],” Hathaway said. “If I can save him, I’ll do anything for him. I’ve said that from the beginning … He’s like my kid.”
Monaghan would not disclose the town’s reason for settling after the appeal was dismissed, citing the need to keep litigation strategy confidential.
In an interview after the hearing, town manager Dawn Francis said the town decided it was time to end the “long and laborious” saga that had cost the town considerable legal fees.
“The town has a responsibility and authority to protect our citizens,” Francis said. “That’s how we approached the situation. At some point in time, we have to determine what is most cost effective for our residents.”
Last month, assistant town manager Aaron Frank said legal fees associated exclusively with this case had reached $9,416.50.