Animal control officer training impacts dog's fate after a bite - WFSB 3 Connecticut

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Animal control officer training impacts dog's fate after a bite

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A dog's fate in our state is not pretty after it has bit a person, but according to one lawyer changing animal control officer training could go a long to way to changing that.

Attorney Thom Page with the law office of Thompson Gould Page said that if your dog were to bite someone, there is a very good chance your pet will be put down.

"The bottom line is that it's wrong," said former animal control officer Jimmy Gonzalez.

He worked in that role in the city of Bridgeport for more than seven years. "90% of the calls I went on were dog bites," explained Gonzalez.

He said his training was very limited on what to do when going out to a dog bite call.

"There are no guidelines. There are no booklets. Everything is self-taught. Discretion is the word. It is really up to the animal control officer's discretion."

Gonzalez believes there it's a pretty straightforward process when he arrived to a the scene of a dog bite.

"You ask a couple of questions. You find out who owns the dog, the animal's situation, if the dog bite happened on the property. If so, the dog gets quarantined there. If not, the dog gets quarantined at an animal shelter. That's it."

It's always more complicated for a dog owner and that can turn into a legal battle.

"Many dog owners, more often than not, give up the dog and the dog is euthanized," explained attorney Thom Page.

He represents a small percentage of dog owners who fight to keep their dogs alive. After the bites, some dogs are ordered to be killed, which is also known as a kill or disposal order. It is issued by an animal control officer.

"From 2012-2015, they had 55 people appeal a disorder appeal. They confirmed to killed all of them," said Page.

It includes a case Eyewitness News has been following for the last 4.5 years.

Two rottweilers, Kato and Kleo, have both been in doggie prison after one of them bit a person in Hamden. It is still not known which dog is guilty.

Their owner said the dogs were being beaten at the time with a bat and reacted to the situation. The dogs are still alive because of numerous appeals. 

For those dog owners wanting to challenge the law, Page finds there are loopholes.

"There are no standards that an animal control officers have to follow when issuing a kill order. There is no training they have to attend in order to determine when a kill order is appropriate, what kind of bite, how many bites, or how deep a bite. The law says the dog can be fighting or be in a bite incident, but it does not define what a bite is. The law does not define what a fight is."

According to Connecticut state law, "no one may begin serving as a state, regional, or municipal animal control officer unless he or she completes at least 80 hours of initial animal control training. The initial training requirement applies only to Animal control officers who begin serving in that role on or after July 1, 2012. All animal control officers must annually complete at least six hours of continuing training education."

Page said he has a problem with the animal control officer training.

"We have training certificates from Animal control officers that we've deposed in our lawsuits that are preparing communities for agroterrorism, Red Cross sheltering workshops, FEMA. They have nothing to do with dogs, cats or animals."

According to the Connecticut Department of Agriculture, animal control officer training varies from town to town and is work related.

Animal control unit supervisor Ray Connors said that training has improved in the past five years.

"Prior to 2012, animal control officers did not require any training or certification in order to do their job, which left many municipalities facing a huge liability for having untrained personnel. Most Connecticut animal control officers attend the annual training seminar," declared Connors in a statement.

The curriculum is 96 hours long and states that animal bites and disposal orders are covered in one class. 

Gonzalez believes there should be even more hand-on training because he said it is a safety issue for the animal control officer too.

"I used to get calls from some town saying 'can you help me? I have a large dog.' I have never dealt with a large dog. It's like, how dangerous is this?" asked Gonzalez.

Meanwhile some attorneys said laws need to be updated since too many dogs are being put to death.

"People in this day and age think of their animals much differently than they did 10, 20, or even 50 years ago. These laws were written over 100 years ago, and they have hardly been tweaked," explained Page.

Protecting your dog starts with the owner.

The Humane Society of the United States said training is key. Dog who are well socialized and supervised are less likely to bite.

Do not allow your dog to roam alone, and keep them away from stressful situations.

While there is no way to guarantee that your dog will never bite someone, you can reduce the risk.

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