NORWICH – After a terrible pit bull attack in Norwich, police officers are still deciding if and when to issue an order to destroy dogs for the animal. This process has grown into lengthy affairs involving state and judicial appeals in other cases.
A male mongrel pit bull was rushed to the city’s animal control facility Monday night after police said the animal killed a month-old baby, Carter Settles, in a McKinley Avenue residence.
10 days quarantine
According to state law, a dog that bites a person must be quarantined for 10 days – this time was cut from 14 days in 2019 – in a “public pound, veterinary clinic, or location” approved by The State Department of Agriculture commissioner has been approved to protect the animal from rabies and to investigate the dog’s behavior.
“The commissioner, the main animal control officer, an animal control officer, a municipal animal control officer or a regional animal control officer can make an order regarding the retention or disposal of biting dogs, cats or other animals as a commissioner or agent, considers it necessary,” it says in the statute.
In Norwich, the police chief oversees the city’s animal control officers.
Norwich Police, who announced earlier this week that they would be following “Department of Agriculture guidelines,” hadn’t said until Friday whether they would apply for an order to destroy dogs.
Norwich animal control officer Carl Bourne said quarantining biting animals is a precaution recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to rule out the possibility of an externally healthy-looking animal developing rabies.
The pit bull, who was charged in the McKinley Avenue death, is in one of two isolation kennels on Park Center Road with indoor and outdoor runs sanitized daily, Bourne said in an email.
“If anything questionable comes up, we would consult with a veterinarian and the dog owner,” said Bourne.
After quarantine and when an animal appears normal, isolated animals may be released, but the quarantine may be extended upon the recommendation of an animal control officer or veterinarian.
Bourne said the pit bull detained in the death of the Carter Settles had been quarantined until Thursday.
“There are still aspects of the case that are pending and more will be known by the release date,” he said.
Jaime Smith, director of the agricultural development and resource conservation bureau for the state Department of Agriculture, said Friday that while there are state laws in place to properly quarantine dogs after an incident, the state is not involved in an animal attack unless there is a legal remedy against a municipal destruction order.
Such orders to destroy were not always resolved quickly in similar, albeit non-fatal, local dog attacks. Anyone who is “affected” by an extermination order can, under state law, apply for a hearing before the commissioner within 14 days.
Recent dog bite cases are not resolved quickly
In 2014, two Rottweilers Lynne Denning attacked and seriously injured the domestic worker Lynne Denning in Plainfield. The dog’s owner, Jenna Allen, appealed an euthanasia request from the Plainfield Police Department and requested a hearing before state officials, where police, animal control officers and other testimonies were given.
The state upheld the police’s request for extermination and the animals were euthanized in mid-2016 after Allen refused to appeal the decision. Mario Arriaga, Plainfield police chief, captain at the time of the attack, said the department was required to send a letter to the state immediately after the attack stating the reasons for asking the dogs to be dropped off.
“That was a request that we made on the spot, and I don’t remember having a lot to do with the state at the time,” he said.
Two female pit bulls, Skylar and Dolly, were held in Norwich pound for several years after accused of assaulting a grandmother and her three grandchildren on Talman Street.
A week after the October 8, 2013 attack, an animal control officer in Norwich requested that the dogs be euthanized, despite an objection from owner Sheri Speer preventing any action on the order. The state Ministry of Agriculture finally agreed to allow euthanasia to take place.
Unlike the Plainfield case, which ended at that point, Speer next filed a lawsuit to save their dogs. Skyler was finally euthanized in 2020 after being diagnosed with cancer, and Dolly was taken to an East Haddam animal shelter earlier this year after spending seven of her eight years in the Norwich pound.
John Penney can be reached at email@example.com or at (860) 857-6965