The dog that killed 7-year-old Hunter Bragg in Corinna last week attacked his throat and had attacked its previous owner’s other dog several times, according to a dog bite report by the town’s animal control officer that indicates a criminal case is pending in the boy’s death.

The report, obtained Friday by the Morning Sentinel after a public records request, indicates the boy, of Bangor, was alone with the adult male pit bull when it attacked him at the home of Gary Merchant at 207 Moody’s Mills Road.

Animal Control Officer Charles Gould, who prepared the report, said Friday that he couldn’t elaborate on the nature of the attack.

Gould said his communication with Merchant and Hunter Bragg’s father, Jason Bragg, has been limited because the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office has taken the lead on the investigation. Bragg, 35, also was at the home during the attack, but it wasn’t clear if he witnessed it.

Penobscot County Sheriff Troy Morton said this week that his office would have no more information on the boy’s death until the state medical examiner released the autopsy report. Morton declined Friday to comment on Gould’s report.

Hunter was pronounced dead at 5:15 p.m. Saturday at Merchant’s home, where he was playing with two other children, the sheriff said in a news conference Monday.


The report identified the dog as Dakota and lists Merchant as the owner, but on Thursday Gould had that the dog had belonged to Merchant’s daughter in Vermont, whom he did not identify. Gould said she had given Dakota to Merchant to take care of for two or three months.

Several times during an interview Friday, Gould said he couldn’t clarify or elaborate on specifics of the report, including a summary of the attack and whether the child was left alone with the dog.

“I was pretty shaken up when I wrote that report,” he said. He said his wife helped him prepare the report and the case has been difficult for him.

The report lists a Vermont phone number for the veterinarian who administered the dog’s latest rabies shot, in May 2015. A woman who answered the phone at the veterinary office couldn’t find a record for the dog or Merchant.

Merchant did not return a call seeking comment Friday.

In the interview Friday, Gould said Merchant told him the dog had attacked his daughter’s other dogs, and Gould still was trying to confirm that.


The dog was chained in the yard when Gould arrived Saturday and he didn’t think it had escaped before or during the attack.

“No, it was still hooked, I believe. That’s what I was told,” he said.

Gould said there were adults in the yard at the time, but they were working, possibly on a deck, and he wasn’t sure if they saw the attack.

Though Gould identified the dog as Dakota on Thursday, the report lists the name as both Koda and Coda. The dog was a “brindle with white face” and was 1½ years old, the report said. The dog’s Vermont license expired in December and the Corinna town manager said this week that the dog was not registered with the town.

The dog was euthanized at a veterinary clinic in Brewer, the report said, noting that Merchant had given permission to the town on Saturday to put the dog down or to give it to a new owner.



Judy A. Moore, who runs Canine Behavior Counseling LLC in Cumberland, said many factors make a dog dangerous, or inclined to bite, but the key to understanding a dog’s behavior is understanding its “core characteristics,” the traits it was born with.

“If you line up certain core characteristics and environmental stressors along with poor socialization, poor training, lack of exercise, poor nutrition, it can create a perfect storm,” she said.

Signs that a dog is getting anxious or stressed, Moore said, often can be seen in a dog’s body language and include pacing, avoiding interaction or walking away, wide mouth panting, ears pinned back or tail tucked under its legs.

She wouldn’t say whether pit bulls – which are not a breed but a category that includes several breeds of terriers – are dangerous.

“I believe all dogs can live in a human society if the dog is given the right socialization, right tools and right skills to be successful,” she said. “I don’t want to get into the specifics, just because people take it so differently. We know there are many lovely pit bulls in our environment and I believe those dogs, and all dogs, if given the right tools, can live in our society without aggression.”

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