Almost a month after an emergency dog hearing, the Waitsfield Select Board, on December 1, issued a ruling requiring that Silvia and Federica Hoffmann must move their two Sarplaninac dogs, Nana and Mina, out of the town by June 1, 2024, or the dogs will face euthanasia.
That ruling followed a November 2 hearing where the board heard from Brigitte Ritchie about being approached and bitten by one of the dogs on East Road. At that same hearing the board heard from many neighbors about their interactions with the dogs who are bred as livestock guardians. The dogs’ size is a factor that many people mentioned (Nana is 138 pounds and Mina is 178 pounds). They are sisters.
While many neighbors said they had seen the dogs running at large and felt threatened by them, other neighbors said the opposite and those present at the hearing acknowledged that after there were earlier issues with the dogs escaping their fencing and yard, that until this fall, they had not been at large for 18 months. Additionally, Dr. Roy Hadden testified that he did not find the dogs vicious while being treated in his office, but could not speak to their behavior outside of the office.
At the hearing, select board member Chach Curtis, a neighbor, and Ritchie advocated for letting the Hoffmanns proceed with installing an even more secure fence.
For Federica Hoffmann, the decision means she and her mother will have to leave Waitsfield, a place she said has been her home since her family moved here in 1998.
“I am devastated by the decision. At the hearing, I was heartened by fact Brigitte wanted us to have another chance and that Chach Curtis, my neighbor, did as well. The girls were the foremen of his construction project when he was building his house,” Hoffmann said.
She said she had received only 24 hours’ notice about the November 2 hearing and was under the impression that the discussion was primarily about the dogs roaming and said she did not have enough time to gather adequate and favorable testimony from others who interact with the dogs including the person delivering the mail, the UPS and FedEx drivers and the Casella driver.
She said her only choice now is to move or appeal the decision to Vermont Superior Court which she said is cost prohibitive for she and her mother.
Rehoming them is not an option for them, she said.
“At six-years-old, they can’t go live on a farm and protect a flock. We are their flock. They’re not going to re-learn that at this age. These dogs form a really strong bond with their humans and it would be devastating for them to be separated from us in the long term, particularly if they each had to go somewhere separately,” Hoffmann explained.
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“I don’t want to save them from euthanasia and have them die from loneliness,” she added.