SCARBOROUGH — A Burnham Road man whose pit bulls attacked a young girl and killed her puppy last year has agreed to pay $5,000 in damages, attorney Elliott Epstein said.

On Monday, May 4, Justice Roland Cole ordered Joseph Bowser, 48, of Burnham Road, to pay the settlement by the end of business Friday, May 15, or face a $50,000 judgment for punitive damages, Epstein said.

The civil lawsuit against Bowser was filed in Cumberland County Superior Court last May on behalf of Stephen and Laurie Caiazzo, also of Burnham Road, shortly after the April 22, 2008, attack.

On Monday, just before the trial was to begin, Bowser asked for more time to prepare and to secure an attorney, Epstein said.

“We were about to start the trial on damages only,” he said. “Mr. Bowser had already defaulted on the issue of fault because he didn’t meet certain deadlines, didn’t appear in the time the judge gave him to do so and hasn’t participated in any way, shape or form for four months.”

When Bowser requested the continuance, Cole gave him time to negotiate with Epstein for the $5,000 settlement.

“This was a pragmatic decision,” Epstein said of his clients’ choice to accept a $5,000 settlement. “Mr. Bowser’s house is under foreclosure and he’s got a substantial lien by the Internal Revenue Service. The issue was collectibility. If we don’t see the money, I guess we’ll get the judgment and we’ll see Mr. Bowser later.”

The attack occurred on Burnham Road, while 11-year-old Elyse Caiazzo was walking her 3-month-old Pomeranian, Officer Michael Beeler said last year. When the two pit bulls approached,  the girl picked up her puppy and moved toward her house. But the dogs began jumping up and nipping her and she dropped her dog to defend herself. The pit bulls snatched the puppy and killed it in front of Caiazzo, who was treated at the scene for minor injuries.

When police arrived at Bowser’s home to collect the dogs after the attack, they discovered he or a family member had hidden the animals. They were later surrendered and transported to the Animal Refuge League in Westbrook, where they stayed until they were ordered euthanized several months later.

Bowser’s pit bulls, Menace and Ty, were well-known and feared by his neighbors, several of whom had complained to police about the dogs being allowed to roam free, Beeler acknowledged. The situation frustrated police because there was little they could do without a signed statement, something most neighbors were unwilling to do for fear of retribution, Police Chief Robert Moulton said last year.

But Moulton said Bowser had been summonsed on three different occasions. In 2007, Bowser was issued a confinement order, requiring him to keep Menace restrained, Moulton said, after Adam Griffiths, of Tapley Road, testified in court that the dog had charged his two boys.

Asked if he thinks Bower’s financial trouble will preclude him from paying the $5,000, Epstein said he thought Bowser “wanted to get that over.”

“The long and short of it is Mr. Bowser has the ability to pay us the money,” Epstein said. “Whether he chooses to or not I guess is going to be his decision.”

Bowser could not be reached for comment.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or [email protected].

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