GUILFORD, CT — A group of dog lovers made a passionate pitch Monday to try and prevent an 8-year-old, 70 pound pit bull mix from being euthanized.
The group, and the dog’s owner—patiently waited for the Guilford Board of Selectmen to finish its regular business—so they could once again make their plea.
The selectmen listened but didn’t take any action on the request to spare the dog, Simon’s, life.
The dog’s owner, David Young, is appealing the town’s decision that the dog be euthanized after biting a teenager. Currently, Simon is locked up at the Guilford Police Animal Shelter, awaiting an appeal hearing in front of the state Department of Agriculture.
“I do get to go see him all the time,” Young said outside Guilford Town Hall. “And I want to make sure everyone know I have no issue with the people at the shelter – they take care of Simon. But I want him home. We all want him home.”
The incident that caused Simon to be removed from Young’s home dates back nearly a year, to August 2017.
A police report states that Simon bit and chased a 13-year-old neighbor who entered Young’s yard with a lacrosse stick to retrieve his ball.
The boy needed stitches.
Young says that Simon was just protecting his property.
But the police report said Simon had another incident, this time with another dog, six months earlier. The report also cited complaints from several neighbors who claimed they walk the neighborhood with sticks because Simon gets out of the yard.
Young has refuted those reports.
Young, his lawyer Thom Page, and a small band of Simon’s supporters who habitually attend selectmen meetings, believe First Selectman Matt Hoey has the authority to get Simon off “death row.”
The decision to euthanize the dog was made before Hoey became first selectman. The decision, which has been on hold for almost a year, was made after hearings by the Guilford Police Department and its animal control officer after the boy was bit last August.
The decision was made by after hearing testimony from Young, the bite victim, neighbors of Young, and police reports were reviewed.
Young said he has a problem with the town’s decision “because it was based on pure speculation.”
“There is no evidence that the dog will be bite again,” Young said.
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 versed in animal law and a New York-based media relations agency, encouraging residents to speak out, and establishing the Facebook page “Save Simon.”
“The town believes that they can’t do anything but the parties are free to negotiate a settlement at anytime,” Page told the selectmen at Monday’s meeting.
Page made this comparison. “How many times do you think Guilford has been sued over the years but the case was settled before it ever went to court. That’s all we are asking to happen here.”
Page showed the selectmen a letter from the Office of the Attorney General on an unrelated dog case which stated that if the the town and dog owner negotiated some sort of agreement than it could change the state’s jurisdiction in the matter.
Following Monday’s meeting, Hoey issued this statement: “As has been stated at the last few Board of Selectmen meetings, we are adhering to the opinion/advice of Town Counsel that we will not be discussing the merits of this case and do not have statutory authority to intervene in the process defined by state statute.”
Hoey added: “Through the will of the Connecticut Legislature, other than guidance by those in the chain of command in the Guilford Police Department, no other Board, Commission, Officer or employee of the Town of Guilford has any jurisdiction over the decision-making process that would diminish the discretion of an animal control officer and ultimately the Commissioner of Agriculture with regard to restraint or disposal of a dog.”
“I understand the concerns many people have and, being a long-time dog owner, appreciate the challenges that this case presents,” Hoey said.
Also speaking on Simon’s behalf Monday was Cindy Vaporis, a member of Desmond’s Army, a group that advocates for animals.
“Simon is a family pet,” she told the selectmen. “This is bad for Simon, bad for the Young family, it’s bad for everybody. Open up your hearts, your minds,” she implored the selectmen.