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A Haddonfield doctor euthanized his dog after attacks. Now his new dog is accused of aggression

The dogs are once again being accused of terrorizing neighbors and their pets.

Bite marks allegedly left on Julie Hughes' dog, Lily, by one of Taffet's dogs.
Bite marks allegedly left on Julie Hughes' dog, Lily, by one of Taffet's dogs.Read moreJulie Hughes

Robert Taffet's Haddonfield neighbors said they thought the issues with his dogs were over: There had been no incidents in recent years since Taffet's two Rhodesian ridgebacks died. A number of years ago they were accused of attacking people in town and elsewhere; one was accused of biting at least two children.

Duke, the dog that bit off a young girl's ear in 2009 and later bit a teenager, was euthanized in 2011. The process was even filmed for an HBO documentary, One Nation Under Dog: Stories of Fear, Loss, and Betrayal.

But last month, two neighbors said, they were attacked by one of the Taffets' new dogs in two different incidents. Charges have been filed against the Taffets, and the borough commission is considering its options, including passing new ordinances.

Taffet said the events did not occur as described.

"It's a very dangerous situation," said Bob Grady, 72, who has lived across Upland Way from the Taffets for nearly a decade.

Grady filed a police report June 13 after a large dog, which Grady identified as a Kangal, charged out of the Taffets' property and toward Grady and his dog, Spot.

"I saw this monstrous dog charging across the street, I swung my dog around by the leash to get away from this dog attacking, its teeth snarling," Grady said, and "I kicked the dog, the big nasty dog. At the same time, Taffet came running across the street, saying, 'I got him, I got him.' "

Neither he nor Spot was injured, Grady said, but he was shaken and filed the report to create a record. He declined at the time to press charges.

Then another neighbor said she was attacked by a Kangal and at least two other dogs that came from the Taffets' property.

"Dr. Taffet's dogs viciously attacked my 19-pound cavapoo, Lily, while we were on a public sidewalk in front of their property on June 30, about 10:30 p.m.," said Julie Hughes, 57, who has lived in a house behind the Taffets' for more than two decades.

In an interview and in police reports, Hughes said she was walking her dog when several dogs rushed out of the Taffets' property and attacked her dog. She said there were at least three dogs, two Kangals and a black Labrador. Michelle Taffet, Robert Taffet's wife, was the first to arrive to help, Hughes said.

"Michelle was able to pick my dog up from the ground while the Kangals snapped at her," Hughes wrote in a July 6 police report. The incident was first reported by the Retrospect.

On Friday, Robert Taffet, an orthopedic surgeon, disputed that account but declined to go into details, saying, "There was an incident, but it wasn't as described." He added: "Something happened that night, and it was not as severe as it was described."

Taffet, whose ridgebacks had landed him in court more than once, also questioned the continuing attention paid to him and his dogs.

"There have been many, many dog bites in the town of Haddonfield that have not been reported to the police or, even if they were reported to the police, they didn't make the newspaper."

After Hughes reported what happened, police cited Michelle Taffet for three dogs that were not properly registered. Since then, the borough clerk said Friday, the Taffets have licensed two dogs that live in Haddonfield, Balak, an Anatolian shepherd that is 2 years old, and Otis, an English Labrador that is 3 years old. A third dog is not old enough to require registration.

The Taffets also own a farm in Alloway Township, where the 2009 case involving Duke, the Rhodesian ridgeback, occurred. The clerk in Alloway said information would not be immediately available on dog licenses there.

Hughes initially filed charges of dogs running at large. On Thursday, she returned to the Haddonfield police station to amend her complaint and file an additional charge: potentially dangerous dog.

"You can't stay quiet," Hughes said of her decision to file charges and seek help from the borough government. "I was never raised to not seek the truth and do what's right. And you can't do this to neighbors — it's irresponsible and it's disrespectful."

Grady said he now believes that he, too, should file charges.

"Whether I get anywhere or not, I don't know, but it can't go unanswered," Grady said. He questioned what Taffet is doing with the dogs: "Whatever the hell motivates him to raise monster dogs … he has to do much more to protect the neighbors."

Jeff Kasko, a borough commissioner, said the commissioners are examining their options, including working out an agreement with the Taffets or passing an ordinance regarding irresponsible dog owners and dangerous dogs.

Hughes spoke at a meeting this week, and the commissioners have not yet spoken with the Taffets, he said.