WATERVILLE — Police Chief Joseph Massey is on a mission to keep dogs known to be aggressive out of homes with children.

“Putting big dogs, aggressive by nature, in with your child — you’re putting that child at risk,” Massey said.

He put out the request last week after a 2-year-old Waterville boy was bitten in the face Sept. 1 by a pit bull and had to be taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland for surgery.

The child reportedly is back at home and recovering from his injuries, and the dog was euthanized after a 10-day quarantine, Massey said.

That same dog on Aug. 18 bit a 6-year-old boy in the same Louise Avenue house, Massey said. The dog was quarantined for 10 days after the first incident, he said.

Massey said the 2-year-old’s mother told police that before the dog bit the boy, she asked the child to go into the bathroom to wash up for dinner.

“She said when the 2-year-old comes out, he falls next to the dog and she said they kind of started rough-playing and the dog ended up biting the 2-year-old on the face,” Massey said. He said the woman pulled the dog off the boy. He was taken to the hospital, and then to Maine Medical Center in Portland.

Norman St. Michel is registered as the dog’s owner and it was his 6-year-old son who was bitten Aug. 18, Massey said. He said police officers and Animal Control Officer Chris Martinez went to the home and spoke with St. Michel.

St. Michel, 42, was summoned for keeping a dangerous dog and is scheduled to appear in Waterville District Court Dec. 6, Massey said.

The civil infraction carries a fine of between $250 and $1,000, he said.

St. Michel’s stepdaughter is the mother of the 2-year-old who was bitten Sept. 1, he said.

Police did not release the woman’s name, but her Facebook page lists it as Crystal Cougle. On the page, Cougle wrote that the toddler had surgery Wednesday and would be home the next day.

Someone asked on her Facebook page if the boy was OK.

“Yeah. He’s fine,” Cougle replied. “He’s getting plastic surgery next week.”

Cougle did not return calls placed to her cell phone; St. Michel’s telephone number did not work.

No one answered either the front or back door at their Louise Avenue home Thursday after repeated knocking, although a child was crying loud enough to be heard outside.

Meanwhile, Massey said he has a strong interest in making sure law enforcement officials do everything possible to protect children, and dogs with a history of biting should not be kept in homes with children.

Massey said he has seen many maulings by dogs during his career.

“Every time one of these maulings happen, I get self-proclaimed dog experts who will immediately respond that it’s not the dog’s fault; it’s the owner. I don’t doubt in some cases they may be, but the bottom line is, there are some breeds we have that are more aggressive by nature than others. You cannot predict with certainty that they won’t turn on not just a child, but other people.”

He said the size and temperment of the dogs can be a dangerous mix.

“These are powerful dogs — they cause a lot of damage,” he said. “They’re powerful wounds, ripping of skin and muscle and tissue. They’re disfiguring in some cases.”

Several years ago, Massey worked to help amend a law that ultimately allowed police to report dog bites; before that, a complainant had to be someone other than police, he said.

“Parents or anybody who’s going to consider getting a family pet and who have small children living in an apartment block or area with a lot of children should do their research on what pet would be suited to your environment,” he said.

Paula Mitchell, executive director of the Humane Society Waterville Area, said that a smaller dog can also be a biter but does not do as much damage as a pit bull. Pit bulls get more publicity because they do more damage, she said.

“They do have that tendency, especially now, because they’re bred to be fighters, protectors — that’s what people breed and train them for,” she said.

She said a Humane Society policy prohibits the Webb Road shelter from allowing people to adopt pit bulls if children under 12 live in the household “just because you never know.”

“A lot of dogs we get are strays and we don’t know their background, so we err on the side of caution,” she said. “We’ve had some really awesome pit bulls — they’re absolutely wonderful dogs. Families don’t tend to want the pit bulls. They’re harder to place than any other dogs we have. They are an aggressive dog and they’re trained that way.”

Mitchell says she believes someone can raise a pit bull as a puppy and train it properly to be a wonderful pet. Most of the time, she said, it can live in a home with a family that has no children or other pets.

“But we’ve had some we’d never place because of their behavior,” she added.

Arthur Clement of Clinton is adamant that pit bulls can be family-friendly pets.

His daughter’s two pit bulls were shot and killed Tuesday by a neighbor after one of the dogs got into the neighbor’s turkey pen, Clement said. Clinton Police Chief Craig Johnson said the dogs attacked the turkeys and the neighbor used a rifle to shoot them.

Clement said his daughter and her 16-month-old child moved in with him recently, and the dogs were gentle with the child.

“They were good-natured dogs — both of them,” he said.

He said the 1- and 2-year-old dogs, who were let outside without a leash, had always stayed in the back yard, until this time when they wandered.

“These were the family pets,” Clement said. “They’re not ugly dogs. They never bit anybody — ever.”

Amy Calder — 861-9247

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