Archive - Jan 10, 2013

Concerning the Livestock Taken from Woodbridge Animal Control

For the past several years, I've been involved with animal rescue, as well as with writing about conflicts between animal rescue organizations, animal control officers and the police departments they are part of. I was very upset to learn about the livestock that were taken from the Woodbridge Animal control and placed at a local farm.

For background, read the two articles from the New Haven Register, Woodbridge cops take heat for removing livestock from animal shelter and Woodbridge police tell their side of livestock story

Let's try to read between the lines of the two stories to get a clearer understanding of what may have happened.

"Tuesday morning, the police placed 21 animals at a Seymour Road farm. The livestock had been kept at the Bradley Road animal shelter between six and 10 months."...

"“They knew Sgt. (Ed) Thomas was looking to move these animals,” Stuart said Tuesday. Thomas directly oversees operation of the animal shelter, which serves Bethany, Derby and Woodbridge. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday and was out of the office Wednesday."...

"Animal Control Officers Karen Lombardi and Paul Neidmann have said they were caught completely off guard by the officers showing up at the facility and announcing they were removing the animals."

The way this reads to me is that Sgt. Thomas was looking to move these animals potentially for quite a while. Yet Animal Control Officers Lombardi and Neidmann who were in regular contact with the animals and people interested in the animals did not believe that this was an appropriate time for the animals to be moved. Sgt. Thomas pulled rank, with the support of his superiors and acted in a way that was not in the best interest of the animals. This would make Asst. Police Chief Stuart's statement about the animal control officers knowing that Sgt. Thomas was looking to move the animals also fit with their statements about being caught completely off guard.

The fact that Sgt. Thomas could not be reached for comment on Tuesday and was out of the office on Wednesday makes me all the more suspicious of his actions. If he was honestly acting in the best interest of the animals and of the town, he should have made himself available and explained why his actions were better for the animals than what the animal control officers believed.

“I have adopted many animals from there, including chickens, and every time, even though they know me, I had to fill out an adoption application. Why wasn’t that done for more than 20 animals?” she asked….

Several residents raised concerns that the animals were not adopted legally, which would include filling out forms. But Thomas said livestock are not adopted, they are simply placed, and no forms are required….

Thomas said paperwork is only required by the state for the adoption of cats and dogs….

Ray Connors, supervisor of the Animal Control Division of the state Department of Agriculture, confirmed there is no required paperwork for livestock…

He said there should be something in writing concerning the animals’ new owners….

Thomas said Woodbridge police have recorded the new owner’s contact information….

The way I read this is that it is not a requirement of State Law that when animals other than cats or dogs are adopted that paperwork be filled out. That doesn't mean that it isn't a best practice that the Animal Control Officers in Woodbridge has followed and should continue to follow. Again, it seems like Officer Thomas was acting within the letter of the law, but not in the best interest of the animals or of the town.

This raises another issue that should be considered. There seems to be this view that 'livestock' are some how less of a pet than cats or dogs. Yet, with more and more people having pot bellied pigs, pygmy goats, miniature donkeys and other 'livestock' as pets, this needs to be reconsidered. Perhaps the State Laws need to be changed to reflect changes in the nature of pet ownership in our state. Lacking that, clear policies agreed upon by the Animal Control Officers, the Police Commission and the Board of Selectman should be made available which recognize that 'livestock' often are pets and should be afforded similar protections.

This brings up another problem with some of the police response.

Officer Rich Monaco said the farm’s owners can “absolutely care for the animals.” He said police visited the farm before and after the animals were relocated.

“This farm is an animal’s dream,” Monaco said. “These animals have a good home. They went from a temporary shelter environment to their more natural environment.”

If you are thinking of a pot bellied pig as a farm animal, that might be right. If you are not paying attention to any specific health needs of the animals, that might be correct. However, if you are thinking about pets that need special care, this may be the furthest thing from the truth.

This gets to my penultimate point.

Police said their general orders require animal control officers to find homes for all animals, including livestock, “as soon as practicable.”

From all that I can see, the decision of when it is practicable should be made by Animal Control Officers and not by bureaucrats with an ax to grind acting arbitrarily and capriciously.

Because of all of this, and in light of

Sheehy has the power to order the livestock returned to the animal shelter, but he said Thursday he plans to attend today’s police commission meeting with an open mind.

I have called First Selectman Sheehy asked him to order the livestock returned to the animal shelter. In addition, I strongly encourage the Police Commission to carefully consider if Sgt. Thomas has acted in the best interest of the town and of the animals, and if there is doubt about that, to find a chain of command for the Animal Control Officers that will better serve the town, its citizens and its animals.

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