Rindge police wait for complaints against animal control officer who shot, killed dog

  • Larry Harris Courtesy photo

  • Rindge resident Maryann Harper reads a statement at the June 27 Select Board meeting requesting information on animal control policies and other similar information in town. Harper wanted to start the discussion in town about such policies following the town's animal control officer shooting a missing dog on June 12. Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, July 02, 2018 8:38PM

No official complaints have been lodged against Rindge Animal Control Officer Larry Harris, who shot and killed a missing dog on June 12, according to Rindge Police Chief Daniel Anair.

Anair, in an interview Monday morning, said he is going to wait another week to see if anyone chooses to file a complaint against Harris, which would launch a formal investigation into Harris using his personal firearm to shoot a 1.5-year-old German Shepherd who was missing for almost seven weeks.

If no formal complaints are filed, Anair plans to release a statement containing more details about the incident, he said. At this time, Anair has not given further details about what happened.

The German Shepherd was named Max and had been missing from the neighboring town of Winchendon, Mass., since April 26, according to a flyer on the Missing Dogs Massachusetts Facebook page.

A potential account of what happened on June 12 has been brought forward by Debra Jones Bachrach, a volunteer with Missing Dogs Massachusetts, in a June 22 letter to Anair and the town’s selectmen.

In her letter, Bachrach said Max went missing after he “slipped his collar” during an attempt to rehome him with a Winchendon, Massachusetts family. His previous North Quabbin-area owners were in their late-70s and determined Max had been too much to handle, wrote Bachrach.

Bachrach – who serves as an animal control officer in Petersham, Mass., where she also lives – became the primary point of contact in the missing dog case after the adoptive family didn’t want to be involved anymore.

Harris spoke with Bachrach after he shot the dog, according to the letter. Bachrach said she was told by Harris initially that Max had approached him in an aggressive manner, but then later ran away. Harris also told Bachrach that he witnessed the dog have a seizure-like event, according to the letter.

Bachrach’s letter references a few different reasons why Harris said he shot the dog, including Max potentially having rabies and later distemper, and that there were children present.

Bachrach said in her letter that she had a chance to review Max’s medical records, noting that he had received vaccines for rabies and distemper on April 18, 2018.

“I’m still unclear. I asked him why he felt he had to shoot the dog, it was never fully answered,” said Bachrach, in an interview Friday.

Bachrach said she is reserving judgment until a police report is generated.

Anair said Monday that he has read Bachrach’s letter, calling it an “opinion piece.”

“That is her opinion, not fact,” said Anair. “If she was there [when the dog was shot] and it was her firsthand account, that would be different.”

A number of people on social media have come to Harris’ defense.

In a Facebook post last week, Rindge resident Angela May Johnson shared her experience from two summers ago when her dog escaped and was picked up by Harris.

Johnson said she has a “protective” Australian Shepard, who is sweet to close friends and family, but “absolutely vicious” around strangers.”

“When Mr Harris brought me back to her holding cell, Willow was growling at him, showing her teeth, and acting like she would bite him” wrote Johnson. “Larry remained calm and mentioned that she was scared and nervous.”

Rindge resident Arwen Mellor told the Ledger-Transcript Thursday that she found the news about the dog to be sad, but she cannot say if Harris had misread the dog’s behavior without being there herself.

“Either way our officer made a call, acted upon it. I cannot believe knowing Mr. Harris that it was easy for him knowing he killed a dog.” said Mellor. “… In my time in town I have seen our animal control officer be nothing but kind to animals he has dealt with.”

Mellor is among many in town who support the town adopting some animal control policies.

Resident Maryann Harper raised the issue at the meeting, asking the town about policies related to animal control, an equipment list, daily logs of the animal control officer’s activity, and more.

It was determined the only policies the town has regarding animal control are the Animal Cruelty Investigation and Prosecution Manual for NH Law Enforcement and a job description for the animal control position.

“This should not be construed as an accusation towards any department or any individual,” said Harper, reading a prepared statement. “It is a sincere effort to begin the discussion on animal control issues in Rindge and I hope that this can be a turning point in how we as a community deal with lost pets.”

Following the meeting, Anair said that he would be interested in adopting a comprehensive policy for animal control operations in town. Anair said he would like to reach out to other towns to see what policies they have in place, to create something similar, but tailor-made for the town.

Jan.1 would be a realistic target date for a draft policy, Anair said. It could take some time for him to craft such a policy, he said, as the department is soon to be short-staffed due to some new officers heading off to the state’s police academy.

Harris, 81, has been employed with the town for more than 50 years, according to Anair, serving the past five to seven years as the town’s animal control officer. Harris previously served as a constable for the police department but he “aged out,” Anair said.

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.