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Simon’s owner, David Young, came to the Board of Selectmen meeting on June 4 with photos of Simon and a newspaper clipping. (Photo by Zoe Roos/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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Those who frequent social media may have notice passionate posts calling on the Town of Guilford to reverse an order to euthanize Simon, a mixed-breed dog currently held at the Guilford Animal Shelter following an incident between the dog and a minor in August 2017. While some elements of the case are clear, other details surrounding the circumstances of the incident, process, and the legal path forward vary from party to party.
The dog’s owner, David Young, has come before the Board of Selectmen (BOS) numerous times, imploring it to reverse the decision made by the town under the previous administration. Simon bit a teenager who was trespassing on Young’s property. Young says that Simon was just protecting his property; the police report lists concerns from neighbors afraid of a dog who had previously attacked another dog and was kept in a yard not fully fenced.
Town attorney Pam Millman previously said Connecticut General Statutes place jurisdiction of this matter with the Department of Agriculture (DOA). She said the owner has a right to a hearing and will have the opportunity to “cross examine and to challenge the municipality’s evidence” of the decision.
Millman said for now all parties are waiting for the hearing before the DOA to be scheduled. At a BOS meeting on May 21, Young vehemently disagreed, saying First Selectman Matt Hoey does have the authority to change the ruling.
“This is going to get bigger and it’s on your head and it’s your responsibility,” Young said. “You are CEO of this town. Do your job.”
Young returned to the BOS meeting on June 4 along with a news crew from WFSB Channel 3. Everyone was calmer at this meeting, but Young still maintains the town has the ability to reverse this decision.
“It’s being litigated in the public eye, but that is about it,” he said. “I have mentioned that I understand that you inherited this mess, but again Simon was on his own property, protecting his own property. We never had an issue before, he never went off property and we have had him for seven years with no issues and no prior incidents...The preference is to come to a reasonable solution that everyone can agree on as opposed to fighting this out.”
Mark Goldman of Goldman McCormick PR, a New York-based public relations agency, accompanied Young to the meeting. Goldman said he is disgusted by this story and that this matter is not going to go away unless the town changes the decision.
“This is not going to stop,” he said. “This was on the national news, this is going to be on local news, this is going to be on news all over the country. Either we can settle this situation or we can just keep on putting you guys [the BOS] on the news. That’s all.”
Young has been trying to make a case to reverse the verdict over the past few months by reaching out to media outlets, establishing a GoFundMe page, hiring a lawyer and a New York-based media relations agency, encouraging residents to speak out, and establishing the Facebook page “Save Simon.”
On the Facebook page, Young has described what he says happens on the day of the incident and over the subsequent months.
“Simon was in his own yard, supervised by his long time sitter when a neighbor teen came into the yard armed with a lacrosse stick. Simon felt threatened and in an effort to protect his home and family nipped the teen on the ankle. Rather than get out of the yard, the teen raised his stick in defiance and Simon bit the teen in the leg. Simon is protected by the law 22-357 yet he was quarantined with every expectation that he would come home as he did nothing wrong. This is supported by the first eight to nine pages of the police report. The town had a secret meeting (in violation of the open meeting laws) when it was decided to destroy Simon.”
Section 22-357 of the Connecticut General Statutes states, “If any dog does any damage to either the body or property of any person, the owner or keeper...shall be liable for the amount of such damage, except when such damage has been occasioned to the body or property of a person who, at the time such damage was sustained, was committing a trespass or other tort, or was teasing, tormenting, or abusing such dog.”
Online and in meetings, Young has claimed due process has not been followed, the town has ignored the law, and that “the town has violated freedom of information laws by holding a closed, secret ‘lynching’ meeting, without due process, without public record or minutes.” Young claims that while the decision to put down his dog was made under former first selectman Joe Mazza, current First Selectman Matt Hoey has the authority to reverse the decision and that “Hoey needs to know he has no legal risk if he does the right thing contrary to what he is being told by his corrupt attorney. He can and will be held accountable for not doing the right thing by standing by illegal action and a poor decision by his predecessor.”
The Police Report
The police report of the case is extensive and differs from Young’s account in some points. According to the report, two officers were dispatched to a home on Oxbow Lane for the report of a dog biting a child. The victim was found sitting in the home of the party that reported the incident to the police, where the victim was staying that day, with paper towels covering his left thigh and an ice pack covering his ankle. In the report, the boy said he was playing lacrosse in his back yard when his ball went into the neighbor’s yard and he then went to retrieve it when the dog attacked him.
The report states that another individual at the home where the boy was staying demanded the dog be put down and the bite victim chanted, “Kill the dog.” Officers informed the two individuals that the dog would not be put down at this time and that the only prior recorded complaint against Simon was a dog versus dog from February 2017. The officers also informed the boy that while they understand he was just trying to retrieve his ball, he did in fact trespass on the dog owner’s property.
An officer went to speak with the dog’s owner and found the pet sitter who, at the time, was unsure of exactly how the bite occurred and was described as “very shaken up.” An officer then contacted Young by phone and informed him that Simon would be taken to the shelter for a 14-day quarantine due to “the nature of the bite on a child and given the history of the dog in the neighborhood.” The report notes that many neighbors called animal control demanding Simon be euthanized after the February dog versus dog incident.
In the following days, an officer checked in with the bite victim, the pet sitter, and Young. According to the report, the officer, Danielle Borrelli, spoke with Young on the phone and discussed the fence and Young said he was “planning on finishing it around the entire back yard before this happened.”
On Aug. 11, 2017, Borrelli again spoke with Young.
“I also informed David of the meeting this coming Monday that will be happening between town officials and some concerned neighbors about this incident,” the report states. “David said he was aware but will be working. He asked that I call him after and let him know the outcome. I told him I would do so.”
When Young was asked last week if he had been made aware of the meeting, he said yes, but that he was not properly informed as to what the meeting would be about.
The meeting was held on Aug. 14, 2017. According to the report, neighbors complained about the dog and “expressed concern about the Young’s management of the dog, including a lack of containment of the dog.” No decision was made at the meeting, according to the report, but the report does state that due to the extent of the boy’s injuries, the incident was classified as an attack, not a bite.
At a meeting on Aug. 18, 2017, between Young and members of the Police Department, the department decided that Simon would be put down considering the severity of the attack, the history of the dog, the dog’s ability to leave the property, and the neighbor’s concerns.
According to the report, “David Young seemed understandably saddened by the decision but resigned to it. He expressed that he may get another dog in future, and I [Borrelli] recommended a physical fence for that future dog.”
Young told the Courier that he does not dispute that claim in the police report, but said he later changed his opinion once he said he became better informed of his rights.
An appointment was then made to have Simon put down at Guilford Veterinary Hospital on Aug. 23, 2017, with the Young family present. Then on Aug. 21, police received an email from Young informing the department that he planned to appeal the decision, claiming the decision was unjustified and “is just an attempt by police to placate loud and objectionable neighbors who have pets themselves.”
The police report details the appeal process and Simon’s time at the shelter. The Youngs were able to visit Simon and bring him food and treats as well as medicine such as his flea, tick, and heartworm preventative. The animal control officer also took Simon for his annual physical and vaccines. The report states that Simon did not display any aggressive behavior when he was brought to the shelter or to the veterinarian, but notes more than once that “at times while playing with Simon, I [Borrelli] have observed David Young playing roughly with the dog. He will tap and rub on Simon’s muzzle, which makes the dog agitated. I have seen Simon snap towards David’s hands at times, but never makes contact.”
The last entry in the police file, at the time it was requested, is from May 17, 2018.
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