Salem police arrested an animal rights activist from Beverly Tuesday on charges stemming from her refusal to return a dog to allegedly abusive owners.
On Tuesday evening Kim Hyder, a 51-year-old drama teacher and host of two local cable animal shows, noticed a student in her Salem acting class brought a small dog, which she described as a miniature Greyhound mixed breed to her childrens' class. Police identified it as a Chihuahua.
The 11-year-old initially told her he was babysitting the dog, named Bruno, Hyder said.
“As the evening wore on, he began revealing to me why he had the dog," she said.
Hyder’s student told her he witnessed one of Bruno’s owners kick the dog in the head and throw a knife at it, she said. The child also told Hyder the alleged abuser threatened him with the knife, warning him not to tell anyone what happened, she said.
Another child, who also said he witnessed the incident, corroborated the story to Hyder, she said.
The 10-year-old brother of the pet's 15-year-old owner later came to Hyder’s class in an effort to retrieve his dog, according to Hyder.
“I said, ‘Did you kick the dog in the face and throw a knife at him?’ and he started crying” she recalled.
After she refused to return the dog, several family members of the boy gathered in front of the classroom door, demanding the dog back. She replied that they would have to call the police, Hyder said.
The boy's sister, who police identified as the dog’s owner, called police to the scene, said Lieutenant Conrad Prosniewski, a spokesman for the Salem Police Department.
Police arrived at the office building where Hyder teaches and interviewed the children, who said they witnessed the abuse, Hyder said. They also interviewed the alleged abuser and his family, she said.
Police found no physical evidence of abuse and ordered Hyder, who held the Bruno’s leash, to turn the dog over to the family, Prosniewski said. Police later referred the matter to Animal Control to investigate, he added.
Hyder, a member of Friends of Beverly Animals and host of two TV shows that feature animal issues on Beverly’s local access channels (BevCam), refused to turn the dog over, put her hands out and told police they’d have to arrest her, Prosniewski said.
“You can’t just go take someone’s dog away,” Prosniewski said. “There’s no physical evidence.”
Hyder was charged with witness intimidation, Prosniewski said. “It’s almost like obstruction of justice, but we don’t have that charge in Massachusetts,” Prosniewski said. She also could have been charged with larceny, he said.
Although Hyder considers herself an animal activist, and has demonstrated on behalf of animals in Harvard Square and in the North End, she said she usually goes about her activism quietly.
“I’m not the type of person to go out and look for it,” Hyder said.
Hyder added that she felt her actions on Tuesday were necessary.
“This was in my own backyard,” Hyder said. “If this happened again, unfortunately, I’d do it again.”
Hyder was released and told to stay away from Bruno’s owners, Prosniewski said. She will face charges at Salem District Court on Oct. 8, Hyder said.